Arvind R P, Director – Marketing and Communications, McDonald’s India tells us why the latest campaign #TrulyIndianBurger was a story waiting to be told and why localisation will continue to be a big part of the brand’s strategy in the country

26 Aug, 2019 by NEETA NAIR

Q] As a brand how do you think customers perceive you today? What direction are you hoping to steer it towards?
McDonald’s is perceived as the quintessential Western brand. It’s an aspirational brand for many. So, for several customers who want to try ‘western fast food,’ McDonald’s is the first brand choice. It has the highest levels of trust among consumers today in the Indian context. From a larger perspective, we are undertaking a lot of initiatives to build it into a very modern and futuristic brand. For example, we are introducing a lot of digital technologies in our store and improving consumer experience, like self operating screens, so that people don’t have to stand in line at the counter. We have also introduced table service at many of our restaurants.

Q] Given that McDonald’s has been in India for more than two decades now, why was there a need to show an Indian connect through your latest #TrulyIndianBurger campaign?
We have many local innovations for the Indian markets, like the famous ‘aloo tikki burger’, and ‘aloo naan’. Yet consumers don’t make the connection of how their most favourite McDonald’s products are Indian in origin. There is a lot that McDonald’s has done over the past two decades as far as ‘farm to fork’ is concerned in the local markets. So the popular products in fact all have a local origin and this was a fantastic story waiting to be told and to celebrate local ingredients, for example the potatoes are from Gujarat, the lettuce is from the Nilgiris, tomatoes from various local farms, jalapenos are from Karnataka, and our coffee is from Chikmagalur. We thought what better occasion to celebrate the story than Independence Day.

Q] You are once again working with DDB Mudra after 15 years, the agency which had launched the ‘McDonald’s main hai kuch baat’ campaign…. How different is the communication going to be here on, any change in tagline expected?
‘I’m lovin’ it’ is a very integral part of the brand and that is going to continue. In fact I would say that this campaign actually brings ‘I’m lovin’ it’ alive. There are many manifestations of ‘I’m lovin’it’. And it is the umbrella expression which is going to remain and get strengthened over the years with various initiatives like these. Our brief was very simple, that over the past two decades we have built a robust system of sourcing in India. We bring the best of Indian ingredients to the customer’s table. However, customers don’t really know that their favorite products have a truly Indian origin. That was the brief on how to bridge that gap and tell the story of the ‘farm to fork,’ but of course in a consumer friendly way. And this was truly digital in terms of communication.

Q] What is the marketing mix for this campaign?
The focus is definitely largely on Digital and we were pretty clear about that as most of our consumers are digital natives, which explains our investment there. Apart from digital, we did a lot of in-store story-telling, through activations.

Q] World over we see Burger King and McDonald’s as huge rivals. Do you see them as worthy rivals in India? We haven’t seen as many point scoring advertisements targeting each other here as in the West...
We are truly focused on the consumer I would say, not anything else. We are focused on the consumer opportunity and doing what it takes to introduce the brand to them. And that remains our sole focus. Every brand is doing its bit in terms of introducing Western fast food to consumers. I think it’s a very large market with enough space for various brands to compete.

Q] Has the ‘order at home’ trend because of Swiggy and Zomato affected business overall?
We have grown because of this opportunity. Apart from McDonald’s, we have various brands like McCafe which is a fantastic coffee brand. We have McBreakfast, our breakfast brand, McDelivery; in fact we were one of the first fast food chains to start a delivery option in India years ago. Of course, since then the delivery market has exploded, with the brands that you mentioned entering the space. So, we are present on the platforms that you mentioned, Swiggy and Zomato. They are doing a fantastic job out there, and our business is growing very well. We are present across all of these platforms and we aim to leverage the growth in delivery.

Q] Do you think McCafe has reached the level of CCD or Barista?
So, in the context of McCafe, it’s really a task for all the marketers and brands to undertake market development for out of home coffee consumption. The market is small and there is huge growth potential. All the brands are working really hard. In that sense McCafe has just started, and we have a strong plan to grow the McCafe brand and make it a very popular outdoor coffee brand in the years to come.

Q] It took you 22 years to make your first profit and despite all the market challenges today, in Q1 FY20, McDonald’s posted a same store sales growth of 7%. At a time when other fast food chains are suffering losses, what are you doing differently?
What has worked is the multifaceted approach for McDonald’s and leveraging all consumer opportunities like coffee, breakfast, and investing in digital strength and providing a differentiated experience at our restaurants. We have built a great brand reputation and have become a familiar brand for consumers in these years.

Q] While Hardcastle Restaurants Pvt Ltd (HRPL) doesn’t own the McDonald’s outlets in North and East… did the mother company’s fall out with the local vendor and negative publicity there affect sales in your part of the business?
Not at all. The West and South markets provide great opportunity, and we are totally focused in terms of execution. There has been no impact.

Q] McDonald’s has never been an offer-led restaurant. Is there a reason for that?
What we have realized over time is that it’s all about providing great value to the consumer, and offering value is much more, it goes beyond offers. We have been consistently focused on value, providing differentiated experiences at our restaurants. And that has worked very well for us, separating us from the competition out there.

Q] What kind of challenges does the brand face in India?
There are a large number of customers who are waiting to experiment with Western fast food on a daily basis. For brands like us, this is not as much a challenge, as it is a wonderful opportunity to introduce Western fast food to Indian consumers at large. So it’s a great market penetration opportunity. And how we can celebrate food and food moments? That’s a typical space where McDonald’s thrives in. And we wanted to leverage every such opportunity, every such moment in the consumers’ life to celebrate these stories.

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