Would you like a side of fries with your gaming experience?

McDonald’s, the leader of dollar menus and drive-thru’s, recently went down a surprising, divergent new path in the jungle of marketing strategy, considerably inconsistent with their traditional brand positioning. The move seems like an overt effort to reach the last family member they haven’t targeted (they got mom with their healthy-option salads, and dad with the new McCoffee offerings, right?): the locked-in-their-room grumpy teenager who doesn’t go out with the family at mealtime, but stays home online, or lost in videogames. What better way to sneak into the lives of the online-obsessed generation than launch a mysterious new online ARG, (alternate-reality game)? Then how about only subtly revealing yourself as the sponsor, in a short blurb in the “terms of use” section on the website? Apparently, the global marketing execs at McD’s couldn’t think of any. Thus we have The Lost Ring, an interactive mystery-solving site that apparently pulls it’s themes everywhere from Lost to Heroes to the Matrix.

Gamers are challenged to solve a mystery that links to the 2008 Summer Olympics, of whom McDonalds is a not-so-subtle sponsor. The game was launched by sending cryptic packages to 50 bloggers, that eventually linked them to the game. It was designed to let the buzz grow on its own, gathering users internationally.
Hmm, Ronald. While we recognize global companies face a challenge in reaching individual local markets, the goal is to communicate one’s core identity. And here, we fail to see the connection. “Our goal is really about strengthening our bond with the global youth culture,” explains Mary Dillon, McDonalds’s chief global marketing officer, in a recent NY Times article.
While inventive, the new campaign is inconsistent with the company’s brand positioning, and in branding, consistency is key. Sorry Ronald, but we doubt gamers will turn into loyal burger-buyers. They may be lovin’ it, but that doesn’t mean their eating habits will change.

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