McDonald’s Increases Limited (Promotional) Attention Span


McDonald’s has come a long way in its menu variety from variations on burgers, its iconic fries, the Fillet-O-Fish and Coke. And now the chain has incorporated its accelerated menu diversification as a main driver of sales and profits around the world.

In particular, McDonald’s is relying on more “limited-time” offerings. The latest examples are a seasonal banana nut oatmeal, which will be available nationwide in the middle of May, and Cherry Berry Chiller, an iced drink that already is available everywhere. McDonald’s began focusing on limited-time offers on a national scale last year after research showed that variety was a top priority for consumers, Wendy Cook, vice president of U.S. marketing, told USA Today.[more]

“Obviously customers are out there, and they’re frequenting different” restaurants, Cook commented. “They’re starved for variety.”

There was a time when McDonald’s reliance on limited-time items was restricted mainly to perennial and predictable appearances of Shamrock Shakes and McRib sandwiches. But McDonald’s strategists have learned how to create consumer urgency around limited-time offers that aren’t so predictable, giving them a quick gauge on the appeal of the particular menu item or concept — and an early idea of whether it’s worth bringing back for another temporary stint or for the long term.

McDonald’s U.S. offered eight limited-time offers that spanned menu categories last year, including Frozen Strawberry Lemonade, Asian Chicken Salad and the Angus Chipotle BBQ burger. USA Today hears that McDonald’s plans to increase the number of limited-time promotions in America this year, which began with the popular offering of Chicken McBites, a bite-size fried chicken made only with breast meat.

An extra advantage of intensifying the limited-time strategy is that it allows the company to participate to a greater degree in consumers’ preferences for local products and fresh, seasonal ingredients.

And the strategy makes it easier for McDonald’s to transfer popular offerings from one market to another. Chicken McBites originated in Australia, where it was promoted by cricketer Shane Warne. What might the Aussies be enjoying (Chicken McWings?) that will find its way on a “limited-time” basis to U.S. McDonald’s in the coming months?