Staff Reporters
May 18, 2020

How a name change struck gold for McDonald's at CNY

DIGITAL MEDIA AWARDS: By showing understanding of how young people experience Chinese New Year, a BBDO China campaign boosted the brand's association with the holiday—and smashed sales goals.

How a name change struck gold for McDonald's at CNY

McDonald's increased total store sales in China by a significant margin during the 2019 Chinese New Year period by changing its name to 'Golden arches'. The temporary 'rebranding' showed solidarity with young people who use their traditional names when they return to their hometowns for the holiday—rather than the English names they use the rest of the time.

The 2019 campaign, by BBDO China, sought to help the brand grab a share of the increased sales that are typical in the restaurant category during CNY—but which McDonald's, as a western-food brand, hadn't been able to capture. To do this, the brand and agency recognised the need to build an emotional connection that would better associate the brand with CNY celebrations.

See the full winner list and read about more winners

They found that connection in the name-change ritual. Specifically, the insight that proved crucial was that although young people might roll their eyes about the practice, they also recognise that using their traditional names helps connect them with their families.

The campaign started with a brand film, launched on the brand's Weibo and WeChat accounts, which announced that McDonald's too would change its name, to 'Golden Arches'. McDonald's then added celebrity power by engaging Yang Chaoyue and Zhang Yunlei to introduce their massive audiences to a new menu infused with golden touches. All offline restaurants got a signboard with the Chinese characters of “Golden Arches” printed in gold alongside 'golden' Chinese couplets. Media resources were distributed with the mass migration of CNY in mind: the campaign hit in first- and second-tier cities before the mass travels began, but turned to third- and fourth-tier cities as consumers reached their hometowns.  

In addition to exceeding original targets, the campaign and the limited-time items boosted sales of combo meals significantly versus the 2018 CNY period. The campaign hashtag landed in the top three trending topics on Weibo during the holiday period, and clickthrough rates for ads in WeChat moments doubled over 2018 levels.

Now, the 'golden' campaign has taken on an additional layer of meaning, winning four gold awards in the 2020 Digital Media Awards, in the following categories:

  • Media: KOL Influencer / Viral Marketing
  • Media: Integrated
  • Sector: Tourism, Entertainment, Lifestyle Services, Leisure & Retail (Including E-Commerce, Restaurants) 
  • Digital Media Owners: Best Use of Integration

The campaign also took top honours by winning the 2020 Platinum Award, and also won a silver under the Social Media category in the Media section.

"The campaign objective is quite challenging as it is to change the traditional habit and mindset rather than only leverage the current trend," a member of the jury commented. "However, I see this campaign idea is a perfect integration between consumer insights and brand insights. The brand successfully linked the young consumers' insights in CNY and brand hot topic that year to generate such an engaging campaign idea. Meanwhile, the campaign execution is also good, an integrated execution from ATL to BTL, from product to service."

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