If you were at select Mcdonald’s Restaurants on Saturday, October 7th, you probably saw a huge amount of millennials yelling at minimum wage workers for Szechuan Sauce and you’d be right to say what the heck is going on.
There is a cartoon on cable called Rick and Morty that confessed their undying love for a 1998 Szechuan Sauce promo that McDonald’s for the movie Mulan. Since then fans of the show have been petitioning the chain restaurant to bring it back and they did for only one day. But here’s where they went very wrong.
Underestimating pop culture fans:
Mainstream pop culture is at an all-time high in the United States. From superheroes to wizards there isn’t a group of fans out there that aren’t represented on either the big screen or television. While Mcdonalds never said it was because of the cartoon that the sauce came back nor the creators of the Rick and Morty show had any part of the marketing. Anyone handling this marketing campaign could have easily found out how the big the show is with a simple Google search. Fans come out in droves to stand in line to get nothing. I read everything from asking for the day off work to driving hours to a selected McDonalds that was giving out the sauce. Even the police were called out to handle crowds. Mcdonalds never knew what was coming.
Limiting the amount given out:
When Mcdonalds say very limited, they weren’t kidding. Reports on Twitter saying the selected stores only received between 20 to 70 packets of sauce. Once again, if they had done the homework, they would have seen that this beyond laughable that they thought those numbers would handle this fandom.
Not telling all of the restaurants in advanced:
There were reports that some restaurants that were listed to get the sauce didn’t even receive let alone know about the marketing campaign. Someone in their marketing department dropped the ball.
Reaching for free press:
Personally, this reeks of a cheap ploy to get media attention and sadly it backfired on them big time as nothing but articles talking about fans protesting and social media content after the fact is nothing but negative about the whole situation.
Backtracking the underestimation:
Now after all of that happening McDonalds is planning to bring it back for a longer period of time. But it might be too late as most the damage is done.
It damaged their reputation:
By being unprepared both McDonalds and the Rick and Morty cartoon have taken a hit with their reputation. Why the cartoon? Because now people know now how that fandom acts in public. I think it would be a long time before any logical brand would ever want to team up with the creators of the cartoon.
In any case, this was an example of a poor marketing plan that completely backfired on everyone involved. Also, yes that picture is a sauce packet that someone gave me that now lives in my office to remind me to always do your homework on your audience you are marketing to.