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McDonalds: Coffee WOW


Restaurant public relationsMcDonald’s national rollout of its Premium Roast Coffee in April 2006 was an important component of the fast-food giant’s breakfast strategy. With coffee being an $8.3 billion business, it was important for McDonald’s to establish with customers that the restaurant serves a great cup of coffee.

In southeastern Michigan, McDonald’s recognized a need to reenergize coffee sales in the latter half of the launch year. Coffee is one of the most important aspects of the breakfast experience and it was imperative to keep coffee in the minds of McDonald’s customers.

At the same time McDonald’s introduced its Premium Roast Coffee, competitors in the Detroit market were spending significant dollars promoting coffee via ad buys, direct mailers and street level sampling. The other players included Starbucks (placing high profile print ads for what might have been the first time in company history), Dunkin’ Donuts (using frequency cards and flavored espresso beverages), Burger King (introducing BK Joe coffee), Tim Horton’s and 7-Eleven.

Sampling coffee at restaurants and at community events was a critical tactic to broadening the customer base and increasing coffee sales.

We created a one-day outdoor event in a high-traffic business area to generate “buzz” and create a “WOW factor” about Premium Roast Coffee. The goals of the event were to secure positive brand positioning in the community, draw significant media attention, and provide sampling opportunities for new and existing customers.

The logistics of coordinating this “WOW” event far exceeded media relations and marketing. We also managed all aspects of the multi-faceted event including: communication with City agencies and departments, area businesses and vendors; complex legal, insurance, security and medical issues; and staffing and coordination of a team of 100 paid staff and volunteers.

To demonstrate McDonald’s Premium Roast Coffee is “great anytime, anywhere,” and McDonald’s “goes to great heights to serve a great cup” of its Premium Roast Coffee, we contracted Nikolas and Lijana Wallenda, seventh generation brother and sister duo of the legendary Wallendas, to take a coffee break while seated on the middle of a high wire suspended 80 feet above the ground at a business and entertainment district – Campus Martius – in downtown Detroit.

During the “WOW” event, samples of McDonald’s Premium Roast Coffee were provided from a McDonald’s branded Mobile Café, completely wrapped with Premium Roast graphics that were very colorful and drew the attention of passersby.

To maximize exposure of Premium Roast Coffee to McDonald’s customers, we hired a 6-member Coffee Street Team to hand out coupons to drive traffic into the restaurants post-event. The coupon offer was one free small Premium Roast Coffee with the purchase of a McDonald’s breakfast item, redeemable at their neighborhood McDonald’s. The Coffee Street Team was dressed in uniforms promoting the McDonald’s brand, including a red baseball cap (Golden Arches on the front, Coffee Street Team on the back), red T-shirts emblazoned with “Smoother,” “Bolder,” “Robust,” in black lettering, descriptors of the Premium Roast Coffee.

The event also included an appearance by Ronald McDonald and entertainment via a local high school marching band.

In advance of the “WOW” event, we had to secure formal approval from the City of Detroit, Detroit City Council, Detroit Police Department, Detroit Fire Department and area businesses. This involved numerous meetings, countless letters, phone calls and emails, to ensure our client was given permission to host this event on city property and, notably, on a public street which had to be blocked off to vehicle and pedestrian traffic beginning the night before the event. We hired overnight security and rented a generator with a light source so the high wire could be set up before sunrise and the event could be held at the scheduled time.

We were in close communication with McDonald’s attorneys locally and nationally in drafting a contract with the Wallendas. We also coordinated the purchase of a multi-million dollar insurance policy on behalf of our client that listed city agencies and departments, and others as additional insured parties.

Media coverage prior to, and on event day, was extensive. We gave “an advance” to the Sunday Free Press, secured pre-event media coverage in Crain’s Detroit Business and coordinated live interviews on talk radio stations and television for The Wallendas and McDonald’s spokespeople, which generated significant buzz in the community prior to the newswire distribution of the press release. On the day of the performance, there were numerous on-location, live and taped television and radio broadcasts as well as print reporters and photographers on-site to cover the event.

Media coverage totaled more than $950,000 in PR value and 18.8 million impressions nationwide. Among these results included Detroit Free Press, The Detroit News, Crain’s Detroit Business, Michigan Chronicle, Michigan FrontPage, all three local television stations—WJBK-FOX 2, WDIV-Local 4, WXYZ-TV 7, WWJ Newsradio 950 AM, WJR 760 AM, local FM radio stations and out-state coverage via the Associated Press.

McDonald’s and our agency developed important relationships with business and civic leaders in the community.

Premium Roast Coffee sales spiked the week after the event and continue to grow.


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