Past and current agency: Leo Burnett is the agency for the last five years, before that it was Mudra
Over the years, McDonald’s has become the only QSR brand in India to have an umbrella of touch points where customers can have an easy access to the brand. Moreover, McDonald’s has successfully associated with Hollywood hits such as ‘Ice Age’, ‘Kung Fu Panda’, ‘Bees’, and ‘Avatar’, to name a few in the past. The marketing strategy has been to reach out to families and create an emotional and social connect.
History of McDonald’s in India
McDonald’s has over 31,000 restaurants in 119 countries serving more than 50 million customers each day. In India, McDonald’s is a joint-venture company managed by two Indians. While Amit Jatia, MD, Hardcastle Restaurants Pvt Ltd, owns and spearheads McDonald’s in the West and South India, McDonald’s restaurants in North and East India are owned and managed by Vikram Bakshi’s Connaught Plaza Restaurants Pvt Ltd.
Celebrating over 13 years of leadership in food service retailing in India, McDonald’s now has a network of over 180 restaurants across the country, with its first restaurant launched in 1996. Prior to its launch, the company had invested four years to develop its unique cold chain, which has brought about a veritable revolution in food handling, immensely benefiting the farmers at one end and enabling customers to get quality food.
Talking about the positioning, Arvind Singhal, Director - Marketing, McDonald’s India West & South, said, “The starting point for McDonald’s India was to position itself as ‘Indian’, represent ‘family values and culture’ and at the same time be ‘comfortable and easy’. However, having said that, the onus was to consistently build and protect the brand while being persistently committed to fundamentals of QSC&V (quality, service, and cleanliness and value). Taking a cue from the Indian family values, the year 2000 saw the first ever McDonald’s ad aired in the country – Stage Fright, which attempted to establish an emotional connect between the Indian family and the brand.”
He further said, “This positioning has been further strengthened by advertising campaigns ably supported by promotional activities. Once we had established the brand, we moved on to the next phase of establishing the products and services through advertising – the company’s one minute service guarantee ad campaign, the ‘Baap ke Zamana ka’ campaign stressing that prices have not risen even though time has passed through and the recent one, ‘Har Chotti Khushi Ka Celebration’. McDonald’s has always kept itself open to customer responses and feedbacks, and these are aptly translated and communicated through the ad campaigns.”
“Communication based on human insight is one thing that has made our ads very endearing. Over the years, McDonald’s has found success in its strategy of Branded Affordability through the ‘Happy Price Menu’ of Rs 20 and has engaged in memorable campaigns like ‘The Bahanas’, the yesteryears prices, or ‘Bees mein full dhamal!’ to establish the branded affordability communication. The ‘Har Chotti Khushi Ka Celebration’ campaign had its first ad go air in 2008. What makes the campaign endearing is showing how one enjoys small pleasures of life, be it a good parking space or having a chance to date girlfriend and ex-girlfriend together, etc.,” Singhal added.
He informed that for the year 2010, approximately Rs 50-60 crore had been marked as the advertising budget.
Giving the advertising perspective, Samarjit Choudhry, Vice President, Leo Burnett India, the current agency of McDonald’s, said, “McDonald’s advertising has undergone changes as the need of the market has changed. Initially, the attempt was to make the brand endearing to the Indian audience and communicate the fact that McDonald’s is a brand that belongs to the entire family. Post that, the focus was to communicate that it is an inexpensive place and that everyone can truly afford to come to McDonald’s. This was done with the Happy Price Menu and there have been different hugely successful campaigns to establish it over the years. Happy Price Menu advertising still forms a significant part of the communication strategy.”
He further elaborated, “The brand has also done ads that have been focused on establishing the great taste of the products with the ‘Khaya toh phasa’ campaign. In addition to the Happy Price Menu over the last year, there have been two new campaigns done to introduce the Chicken McNuggets and the Extra Value Meals. We have not used any brand ambassadors for McDonald’s. The brand belongs to the consumers and whatever works best for the consumer is what is done. Our guests are our biggest advocates and ambassadors. In India, Leo Burnett has handled the brand for over five years now and the endeavour has been to constantly create work that engages and entertains the consumer, while delivering the McDonald’s message.”
Sangeetha N, President - West & ECD, RK Swamy BBDO, noted, “Food habit is one of the last things that can change in any culture. Then there’s the sheer choice and abundance of local food accessible to the average Indian at prices that cannot be seen anywhere else in the world. In this milieu, for any ‘foreign’ brand to make headway is an uphill task.”
She further said, “Keeping this in mind, McDonald’s has quietly made inroads into the homes of the middle and upper middle class Indians such that the younger generation sees it as an essential part of their social identity – McDonald’s is the hangout place for birthday parties, treats, exam completion celebrations and more for tweens and young ’uns. This has been cleverly achieved through innovative Indian menus, pricing, innovative promos and communication that portrays the new middle class Indian family. So, while on the surface it looks like the whole business is on a slow burn, in reality the new generation is thriving on it. It would be great if an Indian entrepreneur does a McDonald’s with our wonderful Indian cuisine in countries across the world by getting into people’s psyche in a similar clever manner!”
An interesting proposition indeed!