McDonald’s Launches Its First Unbranded Marketing Campaign

This is a picture of Ray Kroc's first McDonald's restaurant in Des Plaines IL USA - now a museum.
McDonald’s ran an unbranded advertising campaign to promote a special offer on beverages. Source: Google Images

McDonald’s boldly launched an unbranded marketing campaign in April 2017, in which the fast-food restaurant’s name is never mentioned in the ads. Instead, in these ads, comedian Mindy Kaling refers to the restaurant as “that place where Coke tastes SO good” – never once naming the brand.

You can find these TV ads on YouTube, under a channel that is not McDonald’s, but is instead called That place where Coke tastes SO good. This YouTube channel houses five ads, all of which show Kaling promoting a brand that she is not allowed to name. In each of the ads, Kaling is shown in a yellow dress, standing against a red background – alluding to the mystery-brand’s colors. In one of these ads, Kaling speaks to a beverage technician about his work at McDonald’s, but is bleeped any time the brand is named. In another ad, which has nearly four million views, Kaling simply states that there is “a place where Coke tastes so good”, and asks viewers to Google it themselves to find out what that place is.

– Mindy Kaling endorsed McDonald’s in their unbranded advertisements. Source: YouTube

McDonald’s, of course, is running this marketing campaign to promote its beverage offer of $1 Coca-Cola beverages and $2 small McCafe drinks. Not only is it a good way to sell drinks, this marketing campaign is just clever all around. It takes advantage of the credibility of a self-proclaimed McDonald’s-loving celebrity and the power and reputation of Google and Coca-Cola. The advertising campaign also plays off of the apparently long-disputed notion that Coke tastes best at McDonald’s and engages audiences in a whole new way. This is especially true for teens and those in their twenties, who watch TV while using their phones, use the technology to find information that they trust, and are influenced by word of mouth, according to a recent Inc. article.

The uniqueness of this advertising campaign has caught the attention of many, and has allowed McDonald’s to capitalize on free media coverage, such as news and blog articles, and has led to the millions of views on YouTube. Such a hype has the potential to influence a consumers, such as Coke fans, who do not typically like McDonald’s to visit the restaurant to test if the soda really does taste better there. Furthermore, what’s especially great about this advertising campaign is the way it engages consumers and turns them “from passive observer to participant”, as the Inc. article puts it.

The clever advertising campaign was created by Omnicom’s McDonald’s dedicated advertising agency We Are Unlimited, under the direction of Deborah Wahl, McDonald’s U.S. Chief Marketing Officer, according to a recent Advertising Age article. After three years in the role, however, PepsiCo’s Morgan Flatley is replacing Wahl in the role of U.S. CMO.

In the end, on April 29, McDonald’s posted a YouTube video on it’s own channel announcing “that place where Coke tastes SO good”. Whether or not the campaign ends here – it’s definitely one to remember.

From a marketing management perspective, here are some questions to consider:

  • Research other companies (if any) that have run an un-branded marketing campaign. Were they successful? Why or why not?
  • How might McDonald’s measure the effectiveness of this marketing campaign?
  • What audience(s) does this campaign seem to be targeting?