Marketing 50

McDonald's salads

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When McDonald's Corp. wanted to roll out upscale entree salads, many executives and franchisees thought, "Here we go again." The burger giant attempted and largely failed at selling greens at least three times before, and rival Wendy's International was posting one of its best years ever with its own salad launch as Mickey D's was coming off of its first-ever earnings decline.

Enter Kay Napier, who in November 2002 joined McDonald's from Procter & Gamble Co. Being an outsider gave Ms. Napier the credibility to confront an ugly truth about McDonald's salad history.

"Women didn't feel good about going to McDonald's," she says. The 23-year package- goods marketing veteran thought getting people to try yet another salad would be an uphill battle because "people weren't going to believe McDonald's could make a good salad. "

She launched a test in Indiana using a pedometer as a premium to draw trial for an adult version of McDonald's famous Happy Meal with the salad and bottled water. Then for the April 2003 launch, she greenlighted advertising targeting young women and moms with a national campaign from Omnicom Group's DDB Worldwide and Publicis Groupe's Leo Burnett USA, both Chicago, using the tagline "Yeah, that McDonald's." The effort used media atypical for McDonald's, including magazine and Internet buys , and a partnership with Oprah Winfrey's personal trainer, Bob Greene.

Ms. Napier and other executives also credit Wendy Cook, VP-U.S. menu innovation and marketing, for building a salad around 16 types of lettuce and snagging Paul Newman for a partnership with his dressing line. "Wendy was very brave to insist on the quality of the salads because we could have made a cheaper version. ... but we never would have been as successful as we are," says Ms. Napier.

By the end of 2003, McDonald's had sold 150 million orders of the greens and was pulling in new customers without cannibalizing other parts of the menu. Ms. Napier was elevated to senior VP-chief marketing officer of McDonald's Europe where she now is overseeing the European launch of the Salads Plus line.

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