The Happy Meal Ranks Among the Most Successful—and Copied—Ideas

The idea was inspired by a child eating and reading at the breakfast table

The Happy Meal has seen incredible success since its promotional inception.
The Happy Meal has seen incredible success since its promotional inception. Courtesy of McDonald's

If the annals of branding prove one maxim over and over, it’s this: The best ideas often hit when you least expect. Case in point: the kitchen of a Kansas City, Mo., adman named Bob Bernstein. It was sometime in 1975. His agency, Bernstein-Rein, was sitting on a prestigious regional account for McDonald’s, which had given him a problem to think about. The restaurants didn’t have much appeal for children and, making matters worse, competitor Burger Chef was scooping up a lot of that traffic by giving away free toys. Bernstein had already been mulling over the idea of a special kids’ meal, but the idea hadn’t really gelled.

This story first appeared in the Dec. 9, 2019, issue of Adweek magazine. Click here to subscribe.
@UpperEastRob robert.klara@adweek.com Robert Klara is a senior editor, brands at Adweek, where he specializes in covering the evolution and impact of brands.
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