McDonald’s is ramping up the chicken sandwich wars with falling merchandise

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The McDonald‘s launch campaign for its unique Crispy Chicken Sandwich is the latest salvo among fast-service restaurants in the intensifying chicken sandwich wars, and it is consistent with the past attempts of the chain to target relatively young consumers by offering branded merchandise.

McDonald’s has continuously provided merchandise collections to attract attention to new menu items or services after creating the Big Mac Lifestyle Collection in 2015 with a humorous “McWalk” fashion show in Stockholm. To boost its online ordering and delivery services in 2017, McDonald’s branded merchandise strategies have included its limited-edition McDelivery Collection and custom loungewear collection to advertise Uber Eats’ delivery in 2019. The QSR has even set up a permanent e-commerce site to deliver year-round branded merchandise. McDonald’s launched the Quarter Pounder Fan Club in February 2020, including menu-inspired products.

Within the first half of 2020, when many restaurants were forced to shut down dining rooms or operate at limited capacity, the pandemic halted many of those merchandising efforts as McDonald’s terminated promotional activities. With a renewed focus on a “three Ds” strategy that emphasizes drive-thru, delivery, and digital, McDonald’s pledged in the second half of 2020 to increase marketing spending by $200 million in the U.S. and global markets to compensate for suspended campaigns.

Its promotions included the collaboration on a combination meal that led to ingredient shortages with rapper Travis Scott and one with reggaeton star J Balvin. The vinyl record showcasing Tay Keith, the producer behind the hit song “Sicko Mode,” by Scott, now continues McDonald’s attempts to integrate into the culture of pop music. The chain also introduced menu items that it promoted in September with its quirky “Spicesurance” campaign, such as Spicy Chicken McNuggets. With a multichannel campaign that includes merchandise sales, McDonald’s started celebrating Lunar New Year this month.

In the fourth quarter of 2020, McDonald’s transition to digital, delivery, and drive-thru services greatly boosted same-store sales in the U.S. by 5.5 percent. McDonald’s last month said that it would open 500 new restaurants in the U.S. and spend $500 million modernizing 1,200 locations as part of its quarterly earnings announcement.

The latest move to satisfy the demand for a high-growth product is the rollout of the Crisply Chicken Sandwich. In August 2019, with its variant of the item, the growing popularity of Chick-fil-A led Popeyes chicken to begin the “chicken sandwich wars”. For Popeyes, the sandwich demonstrated to be popular, driving same-store sales growth by increasing annual revenue at every location by about $400,000, CNBC reported. This year’s Yum Brands’ KFC entered the fray by replacing a new menu item with the Crispy Colonel sandwich. Burger King, which is owned by Restaurant Brands International, the parent company of Popeyes, announced on Feb. 17 that later this year it will introduce a new chicken sandwich.

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