From the launch of a gourmet line of hamburgers for its 25th anniversary to the introduction of healthy drinks to the four phases of the brand’s growth, a meeting with the Marketing Director of McDonald’s India.
1996 was a year of notable firsts.
The Spice Girls have released their debut album ‘Spice’. Sports legends Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal made their debuts with the National Basketball Association (NBA). The Hubble Space Telescope has taken the first photograph of Pluto’s surface. Each of them was memorable in itself.
It was also the year that global fast food giant McDonald’s began its love affair with India, opening two outlets, one in Basant Lok in Delhi and the other in Bandra in Mumbai. A quarter of a century later, the affair has turned into true love. And what better way to renew your
wishes love, on such a special occasion, to reinvent what made India fall in love with you – the burgers.
For its 25th anniversary, McDonald’s India has launched a new line of gourmet burgers. “We said we had to double our burgers and take the proposition one step further,” says Arvind RP, director of marketing and communications, McDonald’s India (South and West).
This new line of burgers, according to a press release issued by the brand, “consists of delicious, unique and generously sized burgers with iconic McDonald’s touches.” So, what makes this new selection of burgers such a gourmet affair? Well, these are the exotic patties, the ingredients and the sauces in them. The range is a blend of delicious cheese indulgences and spicy delicacies.
Launching a new food is hard enough, but (launching) a new line of burgers must have taken quite a bit of effort. Arvind says: “Over the past couple of years, meals like lunch and dinner have become the most important occasions for consumers… We wanted to launch something filling and forgiving and had a plan to achieve greater share of these meals.
What about the popular Maharaja Mac? Well, it’s not going anywhere, and the gourmet range will complete it.
When asked where McDonald’s got its ideas from, Arvind was quick to point to formal research, “where we track opportunities, or use cases as we call it.” The key approach has always been to seek out new opportunities.
McDonald’s India is also investing in social listening. The brand, through this research exercise, learned that consumers were looking for something very tasty and satiating. “So, we imagined the brief (gourmet range)”, reveals Arvind.
While McDonald’s launched both drinks based on formal research, what pressure does the brand face to deliver tasty and healthy products? Arvind was quick to highlight last year’s McDonald’s ‘Golden Guarantee’ campaign (2020) which highlighted its trust, safety and health processes.
“Immunity was something that consumers were looking for … These two drinks are relevant in the current context and in the general context of how the brand has met consumer expectations over the past year,” notes Arvind. .
Continuing with drinks, the McCafé brand of the Quick Service Restaurant (QSR) is seeing good business now that the offices have started to reopen. (McDonald’s itself has reopened its offices.) Orders for cold coffee and cappuccinos are on the rise, but the same can’t be said for its breakfast menu, which has been closed for some time due to COVID. Previously it was only available from 7 a.m. to 11 a.m.
The brand now plans to hand out its breakfast card over the coming months in all of its stores. “At the end of the day, when you want to normalize your life, you want to go back to the rituals that you had. We are aware of that, ”says Arvind.
Order directly from McDonald’s?
The Order Direct campaign encourages consumers to place their orders directly from the restaurant (McDelivery in this case) rather than food delivery. Due to the COVID-induced lockdown (s) last year, food delivery giants like Swiggy and Zomato have now become very popular.
But, restaurants have complained about these giants charging higher commissions and leaving restaurants with tiny profits. We wanted the Marketing Director to look into this issue.
Arvind says, “Our approach to delivery has been to focus on all channels relevant to consumers. McDonald’s is not opposed to other platforms. “We are keeping an eye on all emerging platforms once we see good consumer traction. “
McDonald’s was once the favorite restaurant of college students for its affordable “Happy Price Menu”. In fact, I spent more time at the McDonald’s store at Andheri Station during Standards XI and XII than when I was in college.
The exit was inundated with people, especially in the afternoon. I don’t see it happening today. The pandemic changed everything, especially the culture of the QSR restaurant.
Regarding the future, Arvind says, “There are many waves of growth. He talks about the days when global brands were launching in India and the need of the hour was to be relevant, in terms of food.
McAloo Tikki, McVeggie and Veg Maharaja Mac (only in India the Mac offers a vegetarian version as well as a meat version) are a few localized items that the brand has launched in India. “This was the first wave, where much of the menu was crafted from the perspective of the Indian palate, to be locally relevant to consumers.”
The second wave, according to Arvind, was about breaking into the market and presenting it to new audiences. “The ‘Happy Price Menu’ was one of those platforms. We have tried to make the brand relevant to new audiences.
While localized food products and market penetration defined the first two waves, the third wave of growth concerns store modernization. “We have invested a lot in the EOTF (experience of the future), which makes our stores look to the future because consumers were looking for modern retail experiences … checkout kiosks are one example. . “
The fourth wave is about what we do today. Arvind is referring to McDonald’s new fried chicken offering and its campaign now taking place in South India. “For us, it’s now about leadership in burgers, chicken and coffee. These three pillars will be the engine of the next wave of growth.
These waves change over time. McDonald’s wants to be a brand ahead of consumers.
Times change, so do your rivals. From Burger King and Wendy’s to pizza chains to cloud biryani kitchens to home chefs delivering to your doorstep and more.
Arvind is not worried, but rather happy. Why? Because it means consumers are exposed to more flavors and cuisines.
But how does McDonald’s stand out? We don’t see big brand campaigns, similar to CRED during the Indian Premier League (IPL) that got everyone talking. Arvind says, “You’ll see a lot of campaigns around the burgers, chicken and coffee initiatives once we roll them out. And, it will certainly be great campaigns.
Speaking of campaigns, will we ever see a McDonald’s ad mock Burger King? It seems unlikely. “While some brands focus on other brands, you’ll find us focusing on consumers,” says Arvind.
Asked about plant-based meat offerings in India (McDonald’s US will be testing the McPlant in November), Arvind said, “This is an emerging trend and we are watching it. It’s too nascent and too early for me to comment. “
Hardcastle Restaurants Pvt. Ltd. (HRPL) owns and operates McDonald’s restaurants in western and southern India and is a direct subsidiary of Westlife Development Limited (WDL). Sanjeev Agarwal’s MMG group operates the McDonald’s franchise in the north and east.
McCafe Photo Credit: Erik Mclean on Unsplash
Delivery person photo credit: Erik Mclean from Pexels