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McDonald's searches for Millennial bait

News, 16 December 2014

NEW YORK: McDonald's has joined the swelling ranks of brands looking for new ways to engage with Millennials, a search that has taken on greater urgency in the wake of recent poor results.

The Wall Street Journal reported that the burger giant has issued a request for proposals (RFP) to both agencies and media owners. The three-pronged thrust of the RFP combines a hunt for a "big idea" that "generates significant support for a charity" and at the same time "engages Millennials to support this charity by speaking directly to their philanthropic priorities and leveraging their behaviours and habits".

And any resulting partnership should also help improve "the brand perceptions of McDonald's as a good corporate citizen".

A week ago McDonald's reported like for like sales down 2.2% around the world and down 4.6% in the US market, a situation it attributed to "strong competitive activity".

And leading the competition is Chipotle which, Vox stated bluntly, "is killing McDonald's", in the US at least.

Apart from its rapid rate of growth – it opened 132 new restaurants in the year to September while like-for-like sales were up 17% – Chipotle is notable for its stance on sustainability, which has informed both its business model and its marketing.

That sense of purpose is an idea that has been picked up by other brands in the food industry which see millennials leading a reappraisal of how consumers relate to brands.

Mark Addicks, svp/cmo of General Mills, whose brands include Old El Paso and Food Should Taste Good, told a recent conference that this younger generation "think about the brands they are going to affiliate with, the brands they are going to care about, how they are going to engage, the causes that they are going to engage in, how they are going to participate and – more importantly – the values they are going to live by."

It is a theme highlighted in Warc's Toolkit 2015, which observes that Millennials' access to information means they know more about the products and services they buy (and the companies behind them) than any previous generation. As a result they have high expectations of companies and gravitate towards those that combine purpose with profit.

Data sourced from Wall Street Journal, Vox; additional content by Warc staff