This post is part of NRN's newsroom blog, Reporter's Notebook.
When McDonald's, one of the industry's largest and most effective advertisers, launches a new product, like Monday's introduction of the Mango Pineapple Real Fruit Smoothie, national advertising on TV and radio probably could be enough to spur sufficient trial to keep it on the menu. In the case of its McCafe beverages, which include the first two varieties of smoothie as well as Frappes, Frozen Strawberry Lemonade, and lattes and mochas, McDonald's certainly has driven trial and sales to the point where the drinks have powered much of the brand's recent sales growth.
But the chain is not content to stop with national broadcast media to get the word out about the latest flavor of Real Fruit Smoothies. McDonald's spokeswoman Ashlee Yingling gave me a comprehensive rundown of all the marketing muscle being put behind the Mango Pineapple Real Fruit Smoothie, and the email she sent runs about as long as today's hefty issue of NRN, complete with the Top 100 report.
To wit, the smoothie launch campaign includes:
- Three types of coupons — tear-off pieces on cups good for $1 off any blended ice beverage (Frozen Strawberry Lemonade, Frappes or Real Fruit Smoothies), digital buy-one-get-one offers, and Sunday supplements granting a free blended ice beverage with the purchase of a regular sandwich or salad.
- Free samples at events around local markets.
- The popular "spin art" game returns to mcdonalds.com and is now an iAd for the Apple iPad.
- The McCafe Real Fruit Smoothie Fusion Tour, a 38-city bus tour where a branded "smoothie lounge" on wheels rolls into major cities and shows up at events aimed at African-American audiences, such as the Essence Music Festival in New Orleans.
- A benefit event at a Miami McDonald's restaurant to treat families served by the Alejandro Chaban Foundation, which helps Hispanic families teach their children to make healthy eating choices. The event will feature educational games, free smoothies and Premium Chicken Sandwiches, and local bands playing Latin music.
Bear in mind that last year initial demand and buzz for the launch of Real Fruit Smoothies drove so much traffic that McDonald's canceled a sampling event. What this complex, carefully orchestrated operation shows, however, is the importance of following up a product's high awareness with focused efforts to generate trial.
I have no idea if events and bus tours aimed at African-American and Hispanic customers are a response to lower levels of trial among those demographic groups, but any time a chain has the time and resources to segment its audience beyond the general population, it usually gets traction toward the market share and word-of-mouth the brand is seeking.
I'll be interested to see how smoothie sales contribute to sales when the company reports second-quarter and monthly same-store sales results this summer.
Oak Brook, Ill.-based McDonald's also introduced the Frozen Strawberry Lemonade drink last month. The chain has more than 14,000 units in the United States and nearly 33,000 worldwide.