McDonald's takes another nostalgia trip, this time with Grimace

The burger giant has found a winning formula by tapping into customers’ love of its brands. And so the big purple blob character will be the centerpiece of its marketing starting next week.
McDonald's Grimace
McDonald's is kicking off a promotion with Grimace on June 12. / Photos courtesy of McDonald's.

McDonald’s has found that customers have feelings for some of its in-house brands and characters, and so it is using them heavily in its marketing.

The company demonstrated that again this week with the announcement that Grimace—that purple blob thing that has been around for about 50 years—will headline its newest marketing campaign, one celebrating the famous character’s birthday.

Starting on June 12, customers can order a Grimace Birthday Meal that will feature a choice of a 10-piece Chicken McNuggets or a Big Mac, fries and a limited-edition purple shake that appears to be of indeterminate flavor, much like Grimace is an indeterminate species. The company is also launching a website with a video game that will also be available on mobile. Customers are also encouraged to donate to Ronald McDonald House Charities “in lieu of gifts.”

The company has also released various pictures of Grimace growing up, including a teenage Grimace with a mullet and braces.

McDonald's Grimace

This picture is of "teenage Grimace with braces and a mullet." This hits too close to home for the author. 

The company will also sell various Grimace merchandise starting on the same day, including everything from t-shirts to socks to a pool float.

That float, by the way, was the subject of a controversy last summer when, during the chain’s Camp McDonald’s promotion, many customers could not get one—which helped highlight just how popular a character Grimace has become during this social media era.

Marketing has been a key ingredient for McDonald’s in recent years, which has outpaced most of its primary competitors. Same-store sales rose 12.6% in the first quarter, at least 400 basis points higher than the performance of either Burger King or Wendy’s and 360 basis points higher than Taco Bell.

At least one reason is nostalgia. The company has tapped into customers’ childhood memories with much of its marketing, including the aforementioned Camp McDonald’s highly successful promotion as well as the adult Happy Meal promotion featuring figurines and boxes designed by Cactus Plant Flea Market last year.

McDonald’s is clearly hoping to do the same with its Grimace Birthday Meal. “Whether you’ve attended an epic party at the PlayPlace or swapped the fancy dinner for what you were really craving, we know birthdays with McDonald’s hold a special place in our fans’ hearts,” the company said in its announcement.

“Our fans have amazing childhood memories of their birthdays at McDonald’s,” Tariq Hassan, chief marketing and customer experience officer for McDonald’s USA, said in a statement. “And Grimace’s birthday is all about paying homage to the amazing, fun moments we all share.”

By the way, according to McDonald’s, Grimace is from “Grimace Island” and has a huge family including Grandma Winky and Uncle O’Grimacey. But no, apparently McDonald’s isn’t revealing exactly what Grimace is. “Perhaps we’ll never know,” the company said.

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