McD’s Cancels Smoothie Giveaway

Discussion
Jul 20, 2010
George Anderson

By George Anderson

July 13, 2010 – McDonald’s announces it will offer customers
a free sample of its new McCafe Real Fruit Smoothies on July 22 – 24.

July 16
– McDonald’s decides to skip the free smoothie offer.

In a statement to the Chicago
Tribune
, McDonald’s offered an explanation for canceling
the sampling event. "The McCafe Real Fruit Smoothies are an absolute
hit with our customers and we’re experiencing unprecedented demand for
this delicious new choice on our menu. Due to the overwhelming popularity and
to ensure continued supply to meet our customers’ needs, we will not
be executing the national in-restaurant sampling event of McCafe Real Fruit
Smoothies on July 22-24, as previously communicated."

So, McDonald’s canceled
the smoothie promotion because it was afraid it was going to run out of samples.
Really?

Discussion Questions: What is your take on McDonald’s handling of the McCafe
Real Fruit Smoothies sampling event? Will the withdrawal of the event after
publicly announcing it, affect how consumers view the fast food chain?

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18 Comments on "McD’s Cancels Smoothie Giveaway"


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Bob Phibbs
Guest
10 years 9 months ago

An odd mistep for such a well regarded brand. You’d think they could have used those little catchup cups to at least fulfill the offer. My guess is they didn’t commit too much money letting people know about the freebie so they decided to take whatever lumps wags like us could spin out. Once again like KFC and other fast food feeder: freebies more often than not disappoint your fans.

Anne Howe
Guest
10 years 9 months ago

Putting a sampling program in play before a launch to build demand is a solid tactic. But if the item is launched and selling very well, why give it away when you can sell it? McDonald’s is avoiding long lines of people who are potentially just taking advantage of a freebie, and we all know there are millions of consumers who are now conditioned to “browse for freebies” just for the sport of it.

From a business perspective, I can’t say I blame them. The negative PR buzz is a calculated risk. They should be prepared to make good at the counter to avoid any in-store negative buzz on the offer over the dates they had planned. One would hope they’ve sent out instructions to managers on how to handle that, and that the corporation will make the stores “whole” on the cost of goods they might incur over the planned timeframe.

Gene Hoffman
Guest
Gene Hoffman
10 years 9 months ago

When it comes to business McDonald’s is a proven Smoothie. And when this great brand reneges on a freebie, the coupon crowd might rebel a little but the great mass in McDonald’s Army will stay happy with a Frappe and Fries.

Joel Rubinson
Guest
10 years 9 months ago

I think this is a big error. Dan Ariely in “Predictably Irrational” talks about the power of “free” (also, that’s the premise behind Chris Anderson’s latest book). Taking free away is likely to enrage some important customers. If it was a supply issue, they should have made the offer good for a different time window.

Bill Bittner
Guest
Bill Bittner
10 years 9 months ago

This reminds me of the decision by my homeowners association to remove trash cans from the mailbox area–the cans were too popular, requiring frequent emptying. Talk about customer satisfaction.

I agree this was an unusual misstep for McDonald’s, but I don’t believe it will have a long-term impact. Apparently, consumers are already trying the new products and they will quickly forget the rescinded promotion.

Al McClain
Guest
Al McClain
10 years 9 months ago

I don’t doubt for a minute that McDonald’s was concerned about being overwhelmed by consumers looking for free smoothie samples. I happened upon a McDonald’s a couple of years ago when they were running a promotion where they rolled back prices on hamburgers and cheeseburgers to prices of the 1960s. The place was mobbed and people were ordering a dozen burgers at a time. You would have thought they were handing out gold bars!

Max Goldberg
Guest
10 years 9 months ago

This is much ado about nothing. McDonald’s ran a free smoothie coupon in Sunday’s Parade magazine, so there is plenty of opportunity for consumers to sample McD’s new smoothies. Will some consumers be upset? Yes. Will this hurt McD’s business going forward? No.

Susan Rider
Guest
Susan Rider
10 years 9 months ago

Interesting…I guess they felt the promotional cost outweighed the negative feelings of the consumer. There was a coupon in Sunday’s paper. Sounds like their marketing department needs a better process. You wouldn’t expect such from a company like McD. Although, many will go try it because of all the commotion. Maybe that’s the plan… πŸ™‚

Gene Detroyer
Guest
10 years 9 months ago

This is a silly concern. By July 22 most customers would have forgotten about this entirely. If objections actually surface, it should be and can be handled at the store level with little fuss.

Cathy Hotka
Guest
10 years 9 months ago

So the coupon I’m carrying in my purse will be denied? Not good. Not good at all.

Ed Rosenbaum
Guest
10 years 9 months ago

I do not think McDonald’s thought through the entire plan before announcing the Smoothie sample give away. They are usually more tuned to the cause/effect of a program before announcing it.

I do wonder why they were having a free sampling when/if sales were already “so good”? If this is true, then keep advertising as before and let the cash registers continue ringing. Next thought: Why give away a full size drink when a typical ice cream small sample would be sufficient? Yes, even a ketchup cup would have been enough.

I am inclined to think McDonald’s has not been in the practice of throwing a curve to the customers so why start now? This was a goof. Now let’s get back to business as usual and keep selling the Smoothies.

Jonathan Marek
Guest
10 years 9 months ago

Outside of the group of business folks who follow McDonald’s, how many people even knew this was planned? How much bad PR have you seen? Have you met anyone on the street who cares?

This was a smart move. They may well have avoided a real consumer and PR issue had they had to shut it down mid-stream.

Kai Clarke
Guest
10 years 9 months ago

This is a mistake, but one that will pay quite well in dividends, both from a PR and a bottom line perspective. McD’s got their wires tangled and realized that they do not have to give anything away on a hit product. Even the bad PR from this is creating a tremendous amount of buzz that might be worth even more than giving the product away. On top of this, McD’s is saving the incremental cost of giving food away. The only downside is that all of the additional sales of other products which could have been realized during the giveaway days would have been tremendous.

Doug Fleener
Guest
10 years 9 months ago

Kudos to the McD management team of bailing out. Yes this might upset a few customers, but I don’t see anyone changing their shopping (eating) habits based on this misstep. I’d rather upset a few customers than try to do a promotion that you can’t execute successfully and upset a larger number.

Craig Sundstrom
Guest
10 years 9 months ago

This may add a new phrase to the business vocabulary–“McAncellation”–but that’s about it. They have made errors before, and will make more in the future…life and Mickey D’s will both go on.

Gordon Arnold
Guest
10 years 9 months ago

A follow up coupon offer would have made the anticipated short supply story more palatable to all. A sudden drop off of any announced marketing program that has created incitement and anticipation with a weak or unbelievable excuse is nothing less than failure. In the current economic depression there is little room for any level of collapse.

Placement of successful compensating efforts designed to restore confidence in future corporate announcements is one way of identifying fluid damage controls in a well-run company. When damage control is not in place and/or used for an event like this, the observer must assume a significant void exists in the corporate infrastructure. Now let us see what the consumer and stock market have to say. After all, their opinion and reaction is the only thing that counts!

Steve Montgomery
Guest
10 years 9 months ago

I am sure McDonald’s planned the give away long before they knew what sales they would generate. The smoothies appear to be doing very well. Better to disappoint those who expected a freebie than those who are already happy paying for the item.

Girish Nair
Guest
Girish Nair
10 years 9 months ago

As a consumer, I would have a problem with them pulling out. But as a marketer, I think it’s a low-risk call to take. The smoothie is a success; so people will pay for it anyway. The whole idea of the freebie was to get feedback and response. Now, that they got the requisite feedback so quickly as opposed to their planned time lines, why would they want to lose out on business?

The only thing I would have thought is they could get out and offer on the freebies for the first week or so to make amends for the negative publicity they may get–offer it at 0.50$ or less as a ‘make good’ gift…and then go back to selling at full price.

But even without it, I don’t see any great fallout onMcDonald’s!

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