McDonald’s Lures New Customers with Kale – Here’s Why
Peanut butter and jelly. Cheese and crackers. Hamburgers and fries. Some things are just meant to go together. But eggs and…kale?
That last pairing might seem to be a bit of a head scratcher, but those are the two main ingredients in McDonald’s new breakfast bowls, and the fast food chain is hoping that their kale bowls become as natural a choice for breakfast as, say…eggs and bacon.
It’s a bold move for McDonald’s, considering that a recent TV advertisement for the Big Mac was decidedly anti-soy, anti-quinoa, and anti-kale. So what’s the deal? Is this a case of brand backtracking, or a smart example of product diversification?
The answer to that question may not be black and white — unlike the stripes on the shirt of the Hamburglar, which McDonald’s resurrected for a new ad campaign. In these ads, the Hamburglar has been reimagined as a family man with a wife and child, perhaps to make him more relatable to the thirty-somethings who might remember the character from their childhoods.
Vice President of US Marketing, Joel Yashinsky, said of the Hamburglar ad, “When we saw it trending on Twitter, we knew we had connected in a way that helped the relevance of the brand.”
So, was the point of the Hamburglar campaign simply to elicit nostalgia from the 18-35 year old demographic, the group most likely to be involved in social media? Is this McDonald’s way of joining the conversation?
If that’s the case, it would certainly explain why CEO Steve Easterbrook promised in May that McDonald’s would become a “modern, progressive burger chain.” And though it may be a correlative rather than causal relationship, savvy social media users also have a way of being savvy eaters.
And just as social media users have their memes, savvy eaters have their trends. From acai berry smoothies to quinoa salads to sriracha sauce on everything, it’s hard to guess what the next big thing in food will be, or where it will come from. But you can bet that many of these food experiments are coming out of Southern California, which is exactly where McDonald’s has decided to test out their new kale bowls.
For the past few years, kale has been in the foodie spotlight as the leafiest and the greenest of the leafy greens, and for good reason. Deemed a superfood, kale is rich in vitamins K, A, and C, as well as many other nutrients and antioxidants. It even has its own National Kale Day.
And while McDonald’s is by no means trailblazing by incorporating kale into its menu, it is at least, keeping itself relevant.
As more and more people are passing over fast food chains for fast-casual establishments like Five Guys or Chipotle, McDonald’s appears to be luring customers back in any way that it can.
In some ways, the simultaneous resurrection of the classic Hamburglar character and the introduction of the trendy leafy green into the menu appear to be at odds with each other, as if the McDonald’s marketing team is straddling two very different horses and hoping for the best.
But if the ultimate goal is to get the attention of social media users, most of which fall into the 18-35 year old demographic, then the strategy makes more sense. This group is just old enough to remember the Hamburglar with a certain nostalgic sentimentality, but young enough to care about their health, and more importantly their reputation.
As brands embrace new social channels, it’s important to diversify and to create content that appeals to audiences of the different channels. After all, an Egg McMuffin is by no means Instagram worthy, but a breakfast bowl made of kale, spinach and egg whites just might be.