"Whenever a new product is out, we've frequently been one of the first to adopt it," Paul Matson, director of customer experience and social engagement for McDonald's, told AdExchanger, citing the use of Geofilters on Snapchat and 360-degree video on YouTube as examples.
"There is something to be said for being a brand that is an early adopter of new formats," he added. "But the balance we try to make is understanding what's innovation for the sake of innovation vs. a natural place for our brand."
That's not always a straightforward call in a fast-moving environment. McDonald's may have been one of the first brands to run a 360-degree video on YouTube, but Matson doesn't see that as a long-term play: "It can be very cumbersome."
He's more interested in short, live video – "these micro-moments where we can experience things in real time" – although that opens up a whole new range of challenges for the brand.
"Think about all the inherent risks of doing something live and having it broadcasted out to the internet," Matson said. "You mitigate risk where it's appropriate, and we have a lot of stewardship that goes on with our legal counsel, who've been very forgiving, I'll add."
While major campaigns are the most visible part of McDonald's marketing, a less often mentioned aspect – "and a big component of personalization", said Matson – is what is happening in consumers' own locations.
The majority of McDonald's 14,000 US restaurants are owned and operated by individual franchisees, "and they know their community best". So locally relevant applications of national campaigns are tracked to see what is generating most interest and can be further amplified.
The brand also looks at "what's going on organically at the hyper-local level," said Matson.
"For instance, if a local basketball team is going to their first district championship, what role can McDonald's play in that story?"
Data sourced from AdExchanger; additional content by WARC staff