So You Don’t Like The McRib – It Won’t Hurt McDonald’s Bottom Line

Apparently, McDonald’s doesn’t care whether you like their McRib or not. It’s on your radar, and that’s what counts in their Twitter campaign: brand awareness. Beth Kowitt from FORTUNE takes this position, and sheds light on why a bunch of Twitter “eeeew”s can translate to a happy McDonalds.

I wrote previously about the notorious McRib campaign, and explored several reasons why it failed miserably: it was pretty artificial, with little grassroots support from Twitter users; it might’ve targeted the wrong consumers altogether by hitting Twitter; and it ultimately elicited a slew of negative reactions from tweeters, ranging from “ack ew puke ew ack” to “McRib is Voldemort’s nickname because Creepy Unicorn Blood Fed Cauldron Baby is too long to say.”

However, Kowitt’s article presents a different perspective: it’s not about getting positive reactions, necessarily, but just about getting reactions, period.

She quotes a noted business professor as saying that McDonald’s has “unmatched recognition on a global level, but it’s hard to generate excitement about a brand that’s so ubiquitous.” In other words, we all know the golden arches, but it’s more of a given than something to get worked up about. It’s there, always has been, always will be.

So, the argument goes, this Twitter McRib campaign is more of a way to get people excited about McDonald’s again than to get them to go out and get a McRib (of course, the company wouldn’t mind that, either).

As Kowitt’s article presents it, McDonald’s is pretty Zen about the negative feedback on Twitter.

Rick Wion, McDonald’s social media director, says that the company has seen more positive response than negative, but even the less-than-stellar feedback might still spark an interest. “Either way, we hope it might drive people to try it,” he says. Some of the anti-McRib commentary is probably coming from people who have never even tried the sandwich, he says. “Whenever there’s hype, there’s going to be anti-hype,” Wion adds.

Again, it might not be scientific, but I just searched for “McRib” on Twitter and of the first 10 tweets (not counting McDonald’s Promoted Tweet or the McRib Sandwich account sponsored by McDonald’s), seven were either totally negative or extremely skeptical, and none presented the sandwich in a positive light (the remaining three were “curious” about the sandwich). Try it for yourself and see what people are saying.

To me, it sounds like more Twitter feedback is negative than positive – not necessarily the battle between hype and anti-hype that McDonald’s sees, but more of an overall revulsion at the sandwich with some curiosity and evangelism sprinkled on top.

But, does this necessarily mean the campaign was a failure? We’ve written twice now about it – FORTUNE has written an article, too. And we can bet lots more social media and marketing outlets are taking a long hard look at this example of intense Twitter marketing.

The media is abuzz, and the conversation is rolling along on Twitter, with new McRib messages being posted every few seconds.

Kowitt’s article ends on the note that consumers need to make a choice about where they eat every day, and if McDonald’s is on their mind because of the McRib campaign, then maybe more people will eat there and the campaign will have been a success.

I’m not convinced that this will be the result of a campaign that has been getting negative attention on Twitter. If people are completely averse to a product, the best that can happen, in my opinion, is that they try it once on a dare – and then they’re turned off it for good. In the majority of situations, the McRib won’t even get that “daring” taste. It will flit onto a Twitter user’s radar and used as the butt of a joke, and then dismissed just as quickly.

However, McDonald’s is such a behemoth of the fast food industry that even if the McRib is a sales flop, the brand likely won’t take a huge hit. In the end, this campaign might boil down to an interesting case study of the initial test round of Promoted Tweets, and not much more.