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With “Billions and Billions Served” emblazoned on golden arches throughout the world, it’s safe to say McDonald’s has one of the biggest customer bases in existence. The trouble is, since they’re a franchise, they only directly operate about five percent of their locations. This made it pretty challenging to understand the behaviors and wants of their global customer base.

That is, until they launched their loyalty program.

At their last investor day, McDonald’s hadn’t yet launched MyMcDonald’s Rewards, where customers can earn points and freebies with their purchases. Now, with 150 million users on the app, they’ve got a way bigger data set to identify purchasing trends across locations. With all this new customer information to guide their decision-making, McDonald’s dropped some surprising new plans at this year’s investor day on December 6th, sending the internet abuzz. 

It's clear to see the value in an app-based loyalty program for CX strategists. It’s a total win-win: customers get rewarded for their purchases, and businesses gain instant insights on buying habits. For a franchise like McDonald’s that doesn’t operate most of their locations, can you think of other customer listening tools they could adopt?

Some of their more noteworthy announcements included plans to open nearly 9000 new locations, gain 100 million more rewards members by 2027, improve their burger recipe, and offer more chicken products. But one particular announcement had social media poppin’ off like the limited-edition Squishmallows Popping Candy McFlurry. 

McDonald’s Gets Galactic with New Drive-Thru Plans

In a plot twist we never saw coming, McDonald’s is opening an entirely new restaurant chain with a celestial spin: CosMc’s. Ten locations are set to open across the US, taking their name from a McDonaldland mascot from the late ‘80s. 

cosmcs photo

The first location just opened in Bolingbrook, Illinois, and immediately, people were lining up for hours to get their hands on the fast-food giant’s latest offering. So far, reviews have been pretty positive.

"The food was delicious," said Kristina Buchthal Alkass. "The wait was worth it — not only for the delicious food, but also because there was so much anticipation around the new concept. I loved seeing the employees decked out in CosMc’s colors, and everyone with whom I interacted seemed happy to share the new menu items." 

Alkass’s order doesn’t exactly resemble the standard fare you’d find at McDonald’s. She ordered a Creamy Avocado Tomatillo Sandwich, a Citrus and Cream Shake, Pretzel Bites with Spicy Queso, and a Popping Pear Slush. 

Thanks to the data sourced from their loyalty app — and the continued success of competitors like Starbucks — McDonald’s identified their fastest growing market and planned an exciting new menu to meet demand. While they’ll still carry classics like the Egg McMuffin, CosMc’s is shifting the focus to customizable beverages and quick snacks for breakfast on the go and afternoon pick-me-ups. 

However, the loyalty app data isn’t the only factor that influenced their bold new direction. 

The Unexpected Appeal of McDonaldland Mascots

If you were paying attention to social media this past summer, you probably caught wind of the global phenomenon of Grimace’s Birthday Meal. Complete with a limited-edition purple milkshake to match the restaurant’s rotund mascot, Grimace’s birthday campaign was nothing short of a smash hit. Profits soared that quarter, and the internet flooded with chaotic memes and darkly comic fan art. 

It even spawned a TikTok trend where creators would excitedly drink the decadent purple treat — then feign an abrupt, violently violet death. 

Now, one might think that hordes of customers pretending your product is a deadly poison would be a catastrophic failure. But the profits don’t lie, and if their competitor Wendy’s has taught us anything, sometimes it’s a good idea to embrace the weird. 

The beauty of social media is that you never really know what will take off. If you pay close attention and strike while the iron is hot, you might end up striking gold. For McDonald’s, the unprecedented appeal of Grimace sparked a new revelation: people love the McDonaldland mascots. While McDonald’s first introduced them to the public in the early ‘70s to gain appeal with children, those children are all grown up now. It seems they are still, in fact, lovin’ it, and so are their weird kids. 

instagram post screenshot

App-based loyalty programs are effective for learning about purchasing patterns, but social media provides a different flavor of insight. No matter how sophisticated your CX strategy tools may be, diligent social media sleuthing can uncover a whole other world of possibility. It’s always worth it to diversify your approach by combining different CX tools and strategies. After all, it isn’t the new loyalty program leads or the new chicken products that got the whole world talking.  

Once the initial buzz of CosMc’s starts to settle down, it will be interesting to see what direction the company takes in its marketing. They’ve only made one Instagram post so far, but by the looks of it, they’re leaning into the weird. And considering how strange CosMc looks compared to his purple pal, there’s endless potential for meme-ification here. 

Want to learn more about customer loyalty apps and how you can use them to strengthen your business’s CX strategy — even if you don’t have a team of web developers to design your own app? Take a look at our list of the 16 Best Loyalty Reward Software of 2024: Reviewed & Compared.