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McDonald's Monopoly - A Promotional Masterclass

  • 7 mins read
by Rob Verheul
Managing Director

Graphite's MD, BIMA Hot 100 Winner, BIMA Young Talent Council Member

Published on Monday 3rd April 2017

McDonald's ‘Monopoly’ is an annual promotion which is incredibly popular. It's such a powerful marketing machine that not only drives sales for McDonald's but creates a great focus for other brands to partner with them through a compelling campaign - let’s take a look at how it works and what makes it so effective.

A Winning Strategy

McDonald's Monopoly campaigns have become an annual tradition in the UK since it debuted, but the history of the campaign actually reaches back even further. From relatively humble beginnings in the US in 1987 the campaign has now grown to include Canada,  Australia, Austria, France, Germany, Hong Kong, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Russia, Singapore, South Africa, Spain, Switzerland, Taiwan, and the United Kingdom.

It’s a truly global programme and it clear to see the obvious benefits to McDonald's from running a campaign like this; we can glean a great deal just from the way that the core campaign mechanic is structured:

Purchase is required in order to participate at all levels, with tokens awarded on fries and drinks, selected sandwiches and other sides

More tokens are available on higher value items and larger portion sizes - this creates an incentive for customers to increase their average transaction value

There are several ways to win prizes, from instant-wins to the potential to win larger prizes by collecting a series of codes this ensures customers are more likely to remain satisfied and engaged; even if they have not won immediately there’s still a reason to continue to try their luck

The campaign runs for 6 weeks, so customers have a limited timeframe in which they can win instantly, or collect all of their tokens required to redeem a prize

Many of the low-cost prizes can be redeemed in store instantly or at a later date - creating a perfect loop where customers will feel positive when placing their (free) order and then checking to see if they have won after receiving it

Partnership deals are in place with brands giving away holidays, digital subscriptions, eVouchers and a whole host of other prizes. This no doubt helps McDonald’s to cover the cost of the campaign and prize fulfilment - it’s a high profile campaign so it’s likely that brands are contributing financially as well as through prize donations in order to generate their own product and brand awareness.

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Instant Win, digital fulfilment + Prize draw

Many of the tokens in circulation can be redeemed via the digital portal. It’s a relatively simple sign-up process that cleverly places the focus onto the code submission rather than the personal data that is being gathered. Email addresses for all players are collected, and there’s an incentivised opt-in that rewards players with a prize draw entry to win £2,500 if they agree to receive future communications from McDonald's and their partners, it’s a really tight process and who would say no to the chance to win £2,500 when all it costs is an email address and a burger that you have already purchased? I know I couldn’t when I tested it!

There’s also a really lovely affordance for the user baked into the user experience of the code redemption, where the system fakes a little process to see if you are a winner or not, this creates an opportunity to push the Monopoly branding which works really well, it’s very slick and creates some drama before the user finds out if they have won, or in my case at least, lost.

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Collect & Win

For those people who aren’t lucky enough to win one of the instant win prizes via the digital portal, there’s a handy backup plan. Simply collect 10 of your losing tokens and swap them for a fun digital reward in the form of a Sky NowTV 30 day pass. This is another great tactic as not only does it provide an alternate route for people who have been unsuccessful in the headline elements of the campaign but also aids with the goal of creating a repeat behaviour in users, driving them back to store and then back to the portal again to continue to log their codes. This likely brings a great deal of data back into the campaign, essentially creating a micro loyalty scheme within the campaign that allows McDonald’s to track their users movements between branches, and learning a great deal about the customer base.

It’s a also a great opportunity for Sky, allowing them to increase the reach of their digital product that can then in turn be used as a trojan horse to upsell back into their more established product offering, it’s the ‘gateway drug’ effect often created using limited trials but with the implied value that comes from the work involved to achieve access it gives the user the feeling that this is something they should make sure they get the best from while they have it as they had to collect the tokens to get access.

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Intelligent design

I’m sure you’ll agree that this is now a very mature and intelligent approach to the kind of big bang incentive driven marketing that brands have been attempting for many years with varying degrees of success (with some well documented failures in recent years). There’s a few other subtle things that McDonald’s do in order to get the confidence of their customers and generate the winning feeling that helps to keep people coming back even when they don’t win the first time (or second, or third).

Evidence - Showing who has won, and what they were rewarded is a great way to make the campaign feel more ‘real’ and accessible to people. It pulls back the curtain a little and allows them to see that people are genuinely winning the prizes.

Clear Messaging - Clear and concise messaging around the mechanics of the incentive help users to understand what is required of them, what their options are and what they are likely to receive. Reducing uncertainty allows McDonald’s to convert more users, by using an optimistic approach to UX that doesn’t talk down to users they can reassure them as they move through the digital portal, capturing their valuable details and further driving positive sentiment around the quality of the experience.

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Wrap Up

So what can we learn from McDonald’s and their wildly successful campaign? Quite a bit actually, and a lot of the lessons can easily be translated into tactics that marketers can use in incentivised campaigns without the scale that McDonald’s benefit from.

• Communicate clearly with players and ensure that contest feels fair

• Provide multiple avenues for winning but don’t let mechanics get in the way

• Demonstrate success and show that customers are genuinely winning prizes

• Never leave a user with a dead end, always keep the momentum even if they lose

• Partnerships are a great way to decrease risk and help cover the costs

• Great UX and design can enhance the campaign greatly, creating moments of delight within the process that leave the user feeling positive no matter the outcome

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Graphite has created a platform called Prize Media to run campaigns and incentives just like the McDonald’s Monopoly example. Prize Media has been successfully used by great brands like Shazam, Samsung, Clarins, Klipsch, Costa and Uniqlo in markets around the world. It’s got a great out of the box feature set including instant win, prize draw, collect & win and more, and it comes backed by our team of strategists, designers and developers that work with brands to build great user experiences on top of our flexible and scalable platform. Please do get in touch if you’d like to discuss how we could help you connect with your users through exciting incentivised campaigns.