Chances are, if you grew up in the U.S., McDonald’s has impacted your life in some way or another. The multi-billion dollar corporation has had a hold on us practically since we were born — at least in my case, my dad had McDonald’s in the delivery room.
But even if that wasn’t the case for you, you’ve probably had your fair share of McDonald’s Happy Meal toys and time in the germ-infested PlayPlaces. After almost thirty years, McDonald’s has introduced not one, but two new celebrity meals. Is this the future of fast food marketing? Or will these limited-edition meals be archived alongside Michaels Jordan’s “McJordan” burger of ‘92?
McDonald’s isn’t the only fast food chain to take advantage of celebrity endorsements. There was Kate Upton with Carl Jr.’s/Hardees in 2012. There was Ringo Starr with Pizza Hut in 1995, which was strange considering Starr is allergic to basically everything in pizza and had never even tried it, but nonetheless, the man helped debut stuffed crust pizza.
If we go even further back to the 1980s, there was heartthrob Ben Affleck and his Burger King commercials. Most recently, Dunkin Donuts teamed up with TikTok star Charlie D’Amelio to create “The Charli,” a Dunkin Cold Brew with whole milk and three pumps of caramel swirl. Celebrity endorsements are nothing new. Whether it’s an Oscar winner, social media star or anything in between, countless celebrities have teamed up with fast food chains over the years.
Jordan’s McDonald’s partnership in 1992 featured the “McJordan Burger”: a meat patty, cheese, pickles, raw onion and circular bacon all on a sesame seed bun. Unlike McDonald’s more recent special edition burgers which are available nationwide, the McJordan could only be purchased in the Chicago region, where Jordan played most of his basketball career.
McDonald’s latest two celebrity meal collabs featured two immensely popular music artists in Travis Scott — also known as Cactus Jack — and J Balvin. The Travis Scott meal includes a Quarter Pounder with cheese, bacon, lettuce, and barbeque sauce, fries and a Sprite. Scott’s meal fueled a social media frenzy and was so wildly popular that McDonald’s faced a shortage of Quarter Pounders.
The meal quickly gained popularity with customers blasting “Sicko Mode” in the drive-thru window to place their order, which in turn became its own TikTok trend.
Leaked Travis Scott project pulled after brief stint on Spotify, Apple MusicOn Oct. 14, “Rager Universe” surfaced on Spotify and Apple Music, a 15 song compilation of unreleased and unofficial Travis Read…
Shortly after the Cactus Jack success, McDonald’s launched an additional celebrity campaign with Latin pop artist J Balvin. J Balvin’s meal featured a Big Mac — without pickles! — fries and an Oreo McFlurry.
The promotion even offered a free Oreo McFlurry when ordering from the McDonald’s app. J Balvin’s meal was similar to Travis Scott’s in that it didn’t feature any new ingredients, but was rather a revamp of existing menu items in order to create buzz. This was smart on McDonald’s part as they didn’t need to train employees on how to make anything new.
So is McDonald’s growing up with us? The fast food chain has certainly been in the business of advertising to children for a long time. McDonald’s began offering toys in their Happy Meals in 1977 and have continued ever since. Using pop culture in their advertisements isn’t anything new for the corporation either.
American Idol, Barbie, Mini Furbies and Star Wars are just a few pop culture trends McDonald’s has capitalized on with their Happy Meal toys. It’s no secret that Happy Meal toys are just one of the ways McDonald’s secures us as lifetime consumers. Though McDonald’s has faced backlash for marketing to children with Happy Meals, it seems the toys are here to stay for future generations.
McDonald’s sales rose in the third quarter despite previous months of negative numbers, which is believed to be in part from the Travis Scott special. The limited-time item gained so much popularity that demand outweighed the supply.
During this time, McDonald’s also followed Wendy’s and Burger King with its introduction of spicy chicken nuggets, McDonald’s first new chicken nugget flavor in over 40 years. Regardless of what exactly led to McDonald’s boost in earnings, it’s undeniable that their marketing team is doing something right.
The Travis Scott campaign was so successful that Wells Fargo went so far as to say that Travis Scott enabled the brand to “connect with an audience that’s been a weak spot over the past 20 years,” speaking of the 11 to 24 consumer age group. Maybe special edition celebrity meals are the new Happy Meal toy.
Regardless, McDonald’s has done a phenomenal job with reaching Millennials and Gen-Z and adapting their strategy to these generations with new marketing campaigns. If you didn’t get a chance to try either of McDonald’s latest celebrity meals, don’t sweat it.
McDonald’s has hinted that there will be more, and their next partnership just might be with your favorite celeb. I don’t know about you, but I’m lovin’ it.