- McDonald's USA is cracking into the nonfungible token (NFT) market for the first time with a sweepstakes timed around the return of the McRib on Nov. 1, according to a news release. The move celebrates the boneless barbecue pork sandwich's 40th anniversary.
- The limited-run menu item, a cult favorite notorious for its patchwork release schedule, has been enshrined as a limited number of NFTs so fans can own a permanent piece of digital McRib memorabilia. From Nov. 1-7, those interested in snagging the virtual art must follow @McDonalds on Twitter and retweet a sweepstakes invitation.
- The chain will pick 10 winners to receive the NFTs by Nov. 12, per the release. With the play, McDonald's aims to recreate hype around the McRib in the virtual sphere as digital channels and loyalty become more crucial aspects of its business.
McDonald's is putting a metaverse-minded spin on the return of the McRib, an occasion that typically leads to social media chatter and a rush from super fans to acquire one of the limited-run sandwiches. In years past, McRib devotees have turned to location trackers and apps to find stores selling the rare offering. The chain is now looking to link those aspects of scarcity to the red-hot NFT space, which has seen an explosion in popularity this year and increasing traction with brands.
Experimenting with NFTs could be another way for McDonald's to position its brand closer to culture, an increasingly important mandate for marketers aiming to court favor with young consumers.
"We probably have not, in my view … done enough to lean into the stature of our brand and culture and how we can connect to that," CFO Kevin Ozan told analysts on a call discussing the chain's Q3 results. "I think finding properties, finding a message that resonates with youth, but also resonates more broadly in culture for us is a big upside opportunity."
The company beat Wall Street's estimates on earnings and revenue in third-quarter results released earlier this week, with U.S. same-store sales up 9.6% year-on-year.
Loyalty is also a major part of the burger chain's growth equation. McDonald's launched its first nationwide program, MyMcDonald's Rewards, last summer and has already seen over 21 million members enrolled, as well as over 15 million active loyalty members earning rewards, executives said on the earnings call.
Built on blockchain technology, NFTs provide certification that a digital asset is unique and unduplicable. While the format first picked up steam in the art world, marketers have started to make bigger NFT gambles to cater to diehard supporters and foster greater loyalty. In that regard, the tactic seems a potentially good fit for the McRib, whose elusive qualities have kept diners engaged for four decades.
Fast food rivals are also pushing to capitalize on the NFT craze. To support a new line of Keep It Real Meals that are made with fewer artificial ingredients, Burger King recently partnered with NFT marketplace Sweet for a gamified take on the concept. Packaging for the more natural menu lineup features QR codes that, when scanned, unlock one of three collectable NFT pieces. When all three are gathered, customers receive a fourth NFT carrying different rewards like a 3D collectible or gift of free Whoppers for a year.
McDonald's campaign is less complicated on the execution front and appears targeted at getting Twitter talking, yet again, about the McRib. Adding a stronger digital element to the McRib push comes as McDonald's puts a larger focus on menu promotions. Famous Orders, a platform where the Golden Arches owner teams with various celebrities to market their preferred meals, has continued to buoy sales.