Restaurant chains are getting nostalgic over their latest marketing efforts


McDonald’s teaches kids an important lesson: you can never have enough buckets. / Photo courtesy of McDonald’s.

Marketing bites

Editor’s note: Heather Lalley, the former author of the Marketing Bites column, has moved on to greener pastures at Winsight Grocery Business. But we love it too much to get rid of it. So you’re stuck with us.

Restaurants are either out of ideas or feeling nostalgic these days, at least according to some of the marketing we’ve seen recently.

Example: McDonald’s is bringing back its Halloween buckets. The burger giant will distribute the small buckets as Happy Meal holders from October 18 to October 31.

There are three versions of the buckets, which kids theoretically use to collect candy from strangers on Halloween. They include McBoo, who was designed as a ghost, McPunk’n, who is exactly what you think he looks like, and McGoblin, who is green.

Buckets were first introduced in 1986 and were an annual tradition at this time of year until some genius decided to put the idea to rest in 2016. But apparently some fans of the buckets have continued to use them for decoration, planters or musical instruments.

But McDonald’s isn’t the only one bringing back old ideas. Burger King has brought back its classic business jingle, “Have It Your Way,” in a new series of ads with a decidedly new tagline, “You Rule.”

Brands have brought back some of their older ideas, hoping to tap into consumer nostalgia or old brand image. That’s certainly the case with Burger King, which is eager to tap into its heyday of the 1970s and 80s when that “Have It Your Way” jingle was everywhere and its custom burgers made life harder for its rival. McDonald’s.

Nostalgia was also on the menu with the McDonald’s Cactus Plant Flea Market box, popularly known as the “Happy Meal for Adults”.

The company hoped to tap into the nostalgia of adult consumers who loved Happy Meals as kids and still wanted a toy, but were a little too old for any non-plastic item they come with these days.

While people aren’t very familiar with streetwear maker Cactus Plant Flea Market – “Did you order the box?” my McDonald’s employee asked me – they definitely have the idea for the Four-Eyed Grimace figurines. Some workers go so far as to “beg” people to stop ordering meals. And some places lack it.

By the way, I had the Hamburglar.

it will shock you but Chick-fil-A and In-N-Out have the highest customer loyalty scores, according to a recent survey.

Chick-fil-A came out on top, according to Market Force Information’s 2022 report on the fast-casual restaurant market. The chicken sector obtained a score of 84%. In-N-Out, the California-based burger chain, scored 82%. Both saw their loyalty increase by more than 5%.

Chick-fil-A also led the quick-serve chicken category with what Market Force called “share of wallet,” which measures how much consumers spend on the brand relative to its competitors. Chick-fil-A was 58%.

The bottom line: Build customer loyalty by creating a restaurant brand with dashes in its name.

Two of my colleagues from Restaurant Business have unfortunately decided to be fans of the New York Yankees professional baseball team. And they were quick to remind me that a certain gentleman by the name of Aaron Judge set an American League record with his 62nd homer this season.

So I decided to make them both jealous by being the only editor who will write about this achievement in this particular publication.

In this case, the Home Run Inn pizza chain offered a free pizza to anyone named Judge on Wednesday and Thursday. Apparently Peter Romeo is now Judge Romeo.

So why didn’t I think of it? So it’s not specifically restaurant related, but it’s marketing related: you know Liquid Death, the company that decided to can water, give it a badass name and charge a lot of money? This company has a valuation of $700 million.

If you need me, I’ll bottle some water and call it Fantasy Fluid.

Got any marketing tips you think I should write about, or want to invest in Fantasy Fluid? Email me.

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