McDonald's is relying on infomercial humor and the feelings people express when they walk into its restaurants to tell two different stories about its three new premium sandwich flavors.
Making its national debut this month, the Signature Crafted line is McDonald's way of trying to appeal to diners seeking out something a little different and, for fast food, a little upscale.
"When people come to McDonald's they tend to come for sort of their classic favorites, and we know that those same customers are sort of looking for different flavors and new flavors, and they may not think of McDonald's for that," said Julie Wenger, senior director, U.S. marketing, McDonald's. "What we learned from customers is there's a little bit of skepticism about whether or not McDonald's can really bring these great flavors through premium ingredients."
"They like when we're sort of poking fun a little bit and having some fun with them, so this is in that same vein," Wenger said of the frork, whose work is the latest McDonald's marketing with a social-media-worthy spin.
In recent days, the chain also finally uttered its name in a series of ads starring Mindy Kaling about "that place where Coke tastes so good" and where soft drinks are $1 through the summer.
Signature Crafted comes after extensive testing and follows the Create Your Taste platform created under former CEO Don Thompson, which allowed diners to pick from a long list of premium toppings but never took off nationally. To simplify things under CEO Steve Easterbrook, McDonald's has pared down the selections and grouped them together.
For now, there are three different toppings lineups that can go on hamburgers or chicken. The Pico Guacamole version features guacamole, pico de gallo, white cheddar cheese, lettuce, and buttermilk ranch sauce, and is served with a wedge of lime; the Sweet BBQ Bacon offering comes with grilled onions, Applewood smoked bacon, creamy white cheddar, BBQ sauce, and crispy onions; and the Maple Bacon Dijon is served with grilled onions, Applewood smoked bacon with sweet maple seasoning, white cheddar, lettuce and a creamy Dijon sauce.
Of course, for a major launch of sandwich toppings, McDonald's is not relying solely on social media hype and frork giveaways.
The Signature Crafted campaign gets a bit more traditional starting Monday night when McDonald's is set to begin running a six-week series of ads focused on real-life customers walking through the doors of McDonald's restaurants.
A 60-second spot shows couples, families, and even guys in wetsuits. The entry moments, which McDonald's said it captured across the country, don't appear to be staged. If they were, fewer people would probably be staring down at their cellphones while they walked in.
Once McDonald's got clearance from some of the people walking into its restaurants, it interviewed them to try to find out what makes them unique and is using those moments in shorter spots. (For those interviewed in the spots, McDonald's said it abided by SAG guidelines.)
Signature Crafted sandwiches are priced, on average, from $4.99 to $5.19, and will be promoted on TV, radio, online and elsewhere.
Since the launch of All Day Breakfast in late 2015, much of McDonald's focus has been on value plays including McPick 2 and more recently some $1 and $2 drinks. With Signature Crafted, McDonald's has the opportunity to entice people to spend a little more.
"I think they need to focus on the premium side, too," said Morningstar restaurant analyst R. J. Hottovy, who said Signature Crafted shows McDonald's is working on both menu innovation and trying to raise the average transaction size.
Wenger said McDonald's agency We Are Unlimited led the work on the Signature Crafted campaign. Golin developed the Frork concept and PR campaign. McDonald's multicultural agencies Alma, Burrell and IW also pitched in.