McDonald’s app offers mock insurance to drive trial of new spicy McNuggets

Brief:

  • McDonald’s today is letting users of its mobile app select one of two “Spicesurance” offers when they order new menu item Spicy Chicken McNuggets, the company said in a press release. Those unsure they’ll like the new flavor can receive a backup order of Chicken McNuggets for free while customers who are convinced they’ll like Spicy Chicken McNuggets can receive an additional order of them.
  • McDonald’s enlisted Anthony “Spice” Adams, the former NFL player who co-hosted a season of “The Great American Baking Show,” to offer a humorous explanation of the Spicesurance plan in a 40-minute video on photo-sharing app Instagram. The video’s lighthearted tone matches the quasi-legalese found in the mock 9,000-word insurance contract that McDonald’s included in its announcement of the Spicesurance offer.
  • This is the first flavor change for McNuggets since the burger chain added them to its menu in 1983. Beyond the Sept. 16 “Spicesurance” offer, anyone ordering McDelivery service from Uber Eats from Sept. 22-28 can get a free 10-piece Spicy Chicken McNuggets with a $20 minimum purchase.

Insight:

McDonald’s rollout of Spicy Chicken McNuggets is focused on driving mobile engagement, mobile orders, delivery and downloads of its app, reflecting how the company has ramped up promotions during the second half of the year after suspending many of its marketing programs during the onset of the pandemic. In McDonald’s quarterly earnings call, President and CEO Chris Kempczinski said the company would boost marketing spending for the remainder of the year by $200 million, equaling one month of typical expenditures, as it focused on “the three Ds: drive-thru, delivery and digital” that have helped to sustain the chain’s sales during the pandemic.

With its 40-minute video on Instagram, McDonald’s is highlighting the promotion among its 3.8 million followers who tend to be younger consumers that are a key target for quick-service restaurants. About 30% of Instagram users in the U.S. are ages 25-34, while 23% are 18-24, per Statista data. McDonald’s has a bigger Instagram following than its main rivals Burger King at 1.9 million and Wendy’s at 1 million, and even more followers among accounts dedicated to specific countries including Australia, Canada and India.

By offering a mock insurance plan for the first flavor change in McNuggets history, McDonald’s aims to appeal to people who favor spicier foods while giving fence-sitters a chance to receive a free order of the classic menu item as backup. The lighthearted tone of the campaign marks a shift since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, when many brands tended to avoid humor while emphasizing their efforts to help people and communities afflicted by the health crisis.

In another sign that marketing and messaging from big chains could be returning to pre-pandemic approaches, McDonald’s introduction of Spicy Chicken McNuggets spurred a predictable reaction by rival Wendy’s, which brought back spicy nuggets last year after a social media challenge from hip-hop star Chance the Rapper. Wendy’s has cultivated a reputation for snarky remarks about competitors on its Twitter account, and responded to a question about McDonald’s new menu item by remarking that its rival “must have scraped up all of BKs leftovers and slapped mcprice tag on it.” The comment received 3,200 retweets and almost 33,000 likes as of press time. Competitive sparring among QSRs was popular before the pandemic hit, but slowed during the first months of the health crisis. Marketers picking up the tactic again suggests consumers may be looking for a return to normalcy from the brands they engage with.

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