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Sunday, 21 November 2010

McRibbing or McRoasting

Sometimes it just doesn't  pay to pay, for a Twitter Promoted Trend campaign.

McDonalds decided to use this method of promotion to re-launch its McRibs product but were clearly unaware of the inherent risk in so doing.

The majority of the tweets have been negative rather than positive.  Here is a  small sample of them:
  • The McRib is back. We get it. What's the big deal? Doesn't it come back every few months, like a Herpes outbreak?
  • The rib sandwich is back and guess who aint gettin one...
  • McRib is back. Everyone was in line for McRibs.
  • The McRib is back...and undoubtedly not palatable.
  • Ppl really eat mcribs?........THE MCRIB IS BACK!!!!!!
  • Eww they look so nasty!
  • I'm very worried about the direction this country is heading politically..." "Who cares! The McRib is back!
  • The McRib is back!? I thought the animal they made it from was extinct? - Simpons reference.
  • The McRib is a pressed out, flattened MEATBALL!!!! 
  • McRib is back? That seems a little anatomically incorrect. Shouldn't it be McRib is torso?
  • McRib is back!? When was it ever in?? Gross

The history of the sometimes maligned meat product is an interesting one.

According to Tufts University professor Dr. Parke Wilde, it was a little-known federal agency that thirty years ago were tasked with promoting American pork.  They developed a gimmicky ground pork sandwich containing a patty shaped like a miniature rack of ribs.

They then approached McDonald's, one of the country's largest purchasers of beef, and convinced them to sell it and the company introduced the McRib sandwich in 1981.

Consisting of a patty on a roll with a sweet barbecue sauce, pickles, and onions, the sandwich was developed by the federal government's National Pork Board, set up to aid farmers in marketing pork in the United States.

A month ago, Rick Wion, the  director of social media for McDonald’s Corp., was quoted as saying that social media such as Twitter, allows big corporations the opportunity to make the restaurant experience warmer and more intimate.

“It’s really not about how many people are following you. It’s about the level of engagement, really the strong connections you are making with customers.”

McDonald’s staffs its Twitter account with four or five executives from its communications department and three people from the customer satisfaction department, Wion said.

"They help McDonald’s take the “restaurant experience beyond [the] doors."

“You can really get out there and build these relationships," he said.

"What you need to do is look at [social media followers] as your customers, because they are. You need to give them all that same warm hospitality and all the great care you would if they were inside your restaurants..."

In a later interiew with ClickZ he has attempted to dismiss the negative connotations of the McRibs Twitter campaign.

His contention is that anecdotal evidence isn't adequate to judge the effort as being more negative than positive. He also asserts that sentiment data will, on balance, bear healthy results but if the ongoing tweets are anything to go by, he is being rather optimistic.

Wion also infers that many of the negative tweets are based on ignorance of the product, especially the meat used:

"What I can tell you is that it is a quality sandwich,"

"It is U.S.D.A. grade A pork - pork loin and pork shoulder chopped and made into a patty. The fact that it is shaped like ribs probably throws some people off. Often there are some critics who jump on that."

Ron Callari of ClickZ asks a key question; does Twitter provide enough demographic analysis "or targeted user information for a brand to make an informed decision before spending the ad dollars".

The current results of the McRibs campaign suggest that either it doesn't, or McDonalds failed to pre test its campaign with its own twitter follower base.

Carri Bugbee, president of Big Deal PR, says:

"I don't know if the folks on Twitter are really their target audience.  I don’t know who the target audience is for the McRib. But I am going to guess it's probably younger and less affluent, and that's not really where Twitter is probably going to work [as a marketing channel]."

As for the digital debate on the success or failure of this $80,000 campaign - I'm lovin' it!
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