How McDonald’s hijacked the gaming multiverse
Thanks to popular gaming personality Alodia Gosiengfiao, Leo Burnett Philippines maximized untapped branding opportunities in the gaming multiverse. The many foods found in that multiverse are McDonald’s lookalikes, and that gave the agency the idea to hack this uncharted space.
It all started when Alodia found a Big Mac lookalike inside Grand Theft Auto V and posted it. She challenged her eight million followers to search for similar Big Mac lookalikes, and the hunt took off as streamers and gamers began tagging #ThisIsMcDonalds.
“We’ve seen these McDonald’s food-like in games for a while. Some members of our team are avid gamers and have seen McDonald’s burgers, fries, nuggets, sundaes and more in several games already. The brand is so iconic that game titles have copied it for so long.
“We truly believe this idea is something only McDonald’s could launch because the menu is universally recognizable, even in the gaming multiverse. There is so much brand love and recognition for McDonald’s, and Alodia seeing the same things was key to making this truth known to her millions of followers and other players, says Raoul Panes, CCO of Publicis Groupe Philippines and Leo Burnett Manila.
LBB finds out more from Raoul and Oliver Rabatan, CMO of McDonald’s Philippines.
LBB> How did you go about developing the idea and hacking this unbranded space into McDonald’s lookalikes?
Raoul> We relied on typical gamer behavior – the habit of grabbing in-game screenshots for posterity or bragging rights. So players were encouraged to take pictures of their finds and tag them #ThisIsMcDonalds. Engaging with the players immediately was key. So we reacted to the screengrab posts with tailored responses in real time.
LBB> What kind of content assets were created for the McDonald’s hunt?
Raoul> The custom responses were key. Our team created, in real-time, responsive artwork of actual McDonald’s products that coincided with players’ screenshots of virtual food. The players were then rewarded with McDonald’s products through McDelivery. So their virtual food discoveries became real.
LBB> What was the process involved in engaging with the gaming community?
Raoul> Social listening was critical to spotting players’ screen grabs (which were shared on social media, not McDonald’s). The real challenge (and there was zero to little technology involved in this) was answering these in real time. This was made possible by a team well versed in gaming.
LBB> In terms of brand positioning, how will the target audience of players align with McDonald’s marketing strategy in the Philippines?
Oliver> More than a question of consumer audience, it is about consumer culture. Gaming is no longer just subculture, it IS modern culture – and McDonald’s definitely wants to be a part of it. The challenge is how to engage with this ever-evolving playground, hopefully in a way that is not only consistent with who we are as a brand, but also mindful of the values and behaviors of the consumers in this space. This is what we tried to do with the Unbranded Menu.
LBB> What kind of results have been achieved so far with social media influence?
Oliver> Tasty results so far – 140% increase in brand engagement and 108% increase in brand mentions.
LBB> What key elements were crucial to the campaign’s success? What are your takeaways from it?
Raoul> This campaign was really about uncovering two things that have been there all along. First, the McDonald’s menu looks, which is present in virtual worlds. And secondly, the real player behavior of screengrabs. Everything else around it was really just a matter of pushing players to find what we found (in their own language), and betting on virtual food likes in a way that only McDonald’s can.
LBB> In what ways did this campaign raise the bar for executing a creative metaverse campaign?
Raoul> Unlike typical metaverse work, it really just relied on its simplicity. No shiny technology. It was just about banking on virtual food that is already out there in so many game titles. Screengrabs and a simple hashtag made for a powerful sponsorship hack.
LBB> This campaign was central to establishing an emotional link between games and food. How can it be leveraged for future campaigns?
Raoul> The virtual world continues to close the gap with the real world. See how real some games have become. Deepfakes also blur the line with reality. And who knows what happens next? So technology can be scary and exciting at the same time.
Brands will continue to market in these environments. Trying to be as embedded as possible. Most people will go with the flow and choose from (expensive) options laid out for them. The smarter brands will find ways to be creative and stand out. And these inventive ways will be inherently difficult to predict – so I won’t. But I can’t wait to see and maybe experience them!