Ghost of Twitter Trends Past: The McRib Returns

It’s the nature of the McRib to disappear and make a comeback – over, and over again. McDonald’s has found a a goldmine in its marketing of the McRib, as the sandwich is included on the menu for a “limited time”, taken off, and reintroduced with loud fanfare a few months or years later. And it looks like the McRib is emulating this real-world characteristic on Twitter, by flitting on and off the trending topics list as people wave in and out of discussing just how scrumptious (or disgusting) the sandwich itself is.

The McRib was first a trending topic back in November. At the time, we compared the McRib campaign with the Team Coco campaign, to see how effectively different companies and organizations were marketing on Twitter. The verdict was that the McRib produced largely negative tweets, which might have propelled it to a trending topic but which was not all that great for the McRib or McDonald’s brand.

We also looked at the other side of the coin: perhaps McDonald’s didn’t really care what people were saying about the McRib. They only cared that people were talking.

It looks like those in the “any news is good news” camp were right: McDonald’s just posted its fourth quarter sales growth, and credits its recent boost in sales to none other than the McRib.

Along with that announcement, “McRib” again made it to the top of Twitter’s trending topics this morning.

The vast majority of tweets mentioning McRib this morning were either neutral (retweeting the earnings news) or negative:

But there was plenty of positive feedback about the reintroduction of the sandwich as well:

If numbers are any indication of a successful marketing campaign (and when aren’t they?), McDonald’s made the right decision to turn a blind eye to all the Twitter McRib hate in the fall. People on Twitter might’ve been bad-mouthing the McRib when it was re-released in November, but that didn’t stop them from going out and buying one.

The success of this Twitter-centric campaign might have something to do with the transient nature of the McRib. It is only available for a limited time every few months or years, so people who try it even once out of curiosity are contributing to McDonald’s bottom line. Other sandwiches need repeat business, but the limited run of the McRib means that even those people who try one just to complain about it are helping McDonald’s.

It looks like McDonald’s got their Twitter marketing spot on. People were tweeting about the McRib, and this talk translated to sales despite the fact that it was overwhelmingly negative.

While we can’t recommend this type of attitude towards the content of tweets about your brand to all businesses, this just goes to show that there is no single best way to approach Twitter advertising. You’ve got to know your brand, your product and your audience, and you’ve got to understand how Twitter works.