McDonald’s offers ‘Golden Start’ to Lunar New Year with 3 digital experiences

Dive Brief:

  • McDonald’s is celebrating the Lunar New Year, a popular tradition in many East Asian cultures, with a multichannel campaign that kicks-off on Feb. 8, per an announcement.
  • McDonald’s partnered with Asian artist collective 88rising to create the campaign, which includes three “digital moments.” On Feb. 8, McDonald’s will host a mini-series on IGTV starring Korean American hip-hop artist and actor Dumbfoundead. The same day, the 88rising Night Market online store will offer a digital version of traditional red envelope gifts to the first 888 shoppers, in homage of lucky number eight. Each envelope will have two $8 McDonald’s gift certificates to share with others.
  • The burger chain’s “Golden Start” experience is part of its broader efforts to connect with communities it serves in the U.S. and includes Masiwei in a livestreamed concert on Feb. 12 that will be available in the McDonald’s app. The Chinese hip-hop artist will perform songs from upcoming album “Dark Horse.”

Dive Insight:

McDonald’s promotional activities for Lunar New Year mark a shift toward digital experiences as the burger chain seeks to reach consumers who may be avoiding restaurants because of the pandemic. Unlike last year, when McDonald’s celebrated the occasion by handing out red envelopes with gift certificates at the San Francisco Chinese New Year Festival, the restaurant chain is emphasizing digital content to appeal to a target audience of younger consumers who are more likely to use smartphones for entertainment, shopping and connecting with others.

Lunar New Year promotions have become more mainstream as brands adjust their marketing to reflect the changing demographics in the U.S. Asian Americans make up the fastest-growing segment of the country’s population, rising 29% in the past decade to 22.8 million by 2019, according to a Census Bureau report last year. Among the more recent examples of Lunar New Year campaigns, quick-service food chain Panda Express last year celebrated the occasion with mobile augmented reality (AR) experiences on Facebook and Instagram. Three years ago, Coca-Cola teamed up with Alipay, Alibaba Group’s mobile payments app, to design QR codes that scan and unlock AR folk art dolls tied to the soft drink brand’s broader Lunar New Year campaign.

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Livestreamed concerts like the one McDonald’s plans with Chinese hip-hop artist Masiwei also have become a more popular part of campaigns during the pandemic, although it’s interesting to see McDonald’s host the concern in its own app instead of on a third-party platform like Instagram that would reach a broader audience. The decision to host the concert in the app could encourage more consumers to download the McDonald’s app, giving the marketer a way to build an ongoing relationship with these potential customers.

Telecom carrier Verizon also plans to host a livestreamed concert after the Super Bowl with performances by stars including Miley Cyrus and Alicia Keys. The concert will be available across Verizon-owned platforms like Yahoo, cable outlets and on Twitter and TikTok. Tequila maker Patrón, Mexican beer brand Tecate, event company Superfly, carmaker Fiat Chrysler and soft drink brand Pepsi also hosted livestreamed concerts last year.

With many consumers avoiding restaurants, McDonald’s shifted its operations to emphasize digital, delivery and drive-thru — helping to boost same-store sales in the U.S. 5.5% in the fourth quarter of 2020. As part of its quarterly earnings announcement, McDonald’s last month said it would open 500 new restaurants in the U.S. and spend $500 million modernizing 1,200 locations.

McDonald’s Lunar New Year campaign follows recent promotions that generate buzz on social media. McDonald’s Sweden in December ran a promotion around the Golden M, the haircut popularized in the 1990s that resembles the chain’s Golden Arches logo. The same month, McDonald’s also gave away free McRib sandwiches to the first 10,000 people who showed on social media that they shaved their facial hair after No-Shave November, an annual month-long event that raises money for cancer research, prevention and education.

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