Starting with the Best: Return of the McRibThe McRib is an insanely popular item right now, with Twitter and Facebook abuzz with excitement over the comeback of the McDonald's BBQ sandwich. Some are less enthused ("if you're this excited over a McRib, you need to re-examine your priorities," one man tweeted), but the product's comeback looks to be a very triumphant return.
McGriddles Breakfast SandwichBreakfast-wise, McDonald's has always been ahead of the fast food curve. By 2000, however, some customers began to feel the Egg McMuffin, the chain's breakfast mainstay, was rubbery and unsatisfying. So executives challenged its employers to make something new: a product that captured pancakes, sausages, and maple syrup, but without the time and mess that a sit-down meal would bring. The resulting McGriddle was an instant hit, accounting for some 40 percent of store sales growth that year.
McDonald's MonopolyThe Hasbro-McDonald's promo has been running since 1987, all based on the surefire knowledge that people love winning as much as they love french fries. By giving away enough instant prizes to make them feel like winners, customers are drawn back to McDonald's again and again. With the launch of an online version in 2003, McDonald's pact with Monopoly had become the fast food giant's greatest partnership.
The Happy MealHappy Meals made their debut in 1979, just a simple cardboard box in a circus theme with a hamburger, fries, and simple toys like a puzzle book or character erasers. As fast food became the go-to place for working families to get meals, however, McDonald's expanded the Happy meal dramatically, adding meal options and fancier toys. The association between McDonald's and children had truly begun.
Premium SaladsYes, a chain famous (and infamous) for delicious grease actually made a brilliant move by adding salads to the menu in 2003. Noting other companies reliance on iceberg and old tomatoes, McDonald's was careful to market their salads as a "16-lettuce-blend," and to give them tasty names like Southwest and Bacon Ranch. They also decided upped the price, with the average salad costing two dollars more than a Big Mac. The result? People felt they were being healthy and getting a better product, even when they weren't.
Now, for the Bad News: The McHotdogIn the late 1990s, some Midwestern stores began selling Oscar Mayer hot dogs out of their franchises, marketing them as a summer item. The hot dogs were a flop, and disappeared from most stores-- only to return again, in the U.S., UK, and Japan, throughout the late 90s and into the 2000s. Each time, the McHotdog has met with lukewarm reviews, maybe because the name just looks too much like a bad run-on.
The Arch DeluxeAfter so much success in the children's market, McDonald's decided it was time to shoot itself in the foot, launching a "hamburger for adults" in the 1980s. The Arch Deluxe was supposed to have a sophisticated taste, something most people weren't looking for in a cheap burger. Ads showed kids making faces at the taste, and even pictured Ronald Reagan playing golf as a link to how boring the classy new burger would be. One of the most expensive campaigns to date, McDonald's got nowhere with bakery buns and hickory bacon, quickly falling back on mass-production and salt.
The HulaburgerThe idea behind the 1963 burger was that Roman Catholics, who couldn't eat meat on Fridays, would want something to snack on besides burgers. Rather than go with a fish sandwich, however, McDonald's head Ray Krok opted for the Hulaburger, substituting beef with a hunk of pineapple and keeping everything else the same. The burger tanked, and the Fillet-O-Fish quickly replaced it.
McLean DeluxeThe biggest problem was the name. Rather than evoke zesty healthfulness like a Premium Salad, the early 90s McLean burger sounded like Diet Coke in food form, turning off most men (and many women) from trying it. To make matters worse, the fat removed from the McLean was replaced with water mixed with seaweed, never a strong sell with American audiences. It tanked in months.
The McAfricaThis was an issue of poor taste more than poor flavor. It was meant to commemorate the 2008 Olympic Games, one of many limited edition burgers, like the McAsia and McEurope, already released. Beyond the problems inherit in marketing a product after a continent, however, and marketing the "exotic" patties as "a taste of Africa," the campaign also launched as news of widespread African famine was being plastered across every TV screen. McDonald's really should have known better: in 2002, without any Olympics excuse, the company released a McAfrika burger in Norway, causing such a severe backlash that McDonald's began putting donation boxes for famine relief in their restaurants.
McDonald's announced Oct. 23 that its boneless barbeque sandwich, the (in)famous McRib, will make a comeback this year, joining the continued success of cash ploys like McDonald's Monopoly as it storms U.S. locations through Nov. 14, 2011.
McDonald's gave the barbeque McRib, which originally appeared in 1981 before bowing out in 1994, made a preview return back in 2010, when the fast food corporation made the McRib available nationally last November. Sales were so popular, however, that the company decided to bring the McRib back again this year.
The McRib, a boneless pork sandwich smothered in BBQ, onions and pickle slices, has always been a popular McDonald's offering, garnering sales numbers to rival the Big Mac during its run. Part of the McRib's allure, however, has always been in its limited-run promise. Bringing it back every so often, said Marta Fearon, McDonald's U.S. marketing director, adds to the excitement. She is not sure if the McRib will reappear every fall.
Following Facebook groups like Bring Back the McRib!!! and Twitter trends like #McRib and #BringBackMcBBQ, the McDonald's franchise made the official decision to stop leaving McRib distribution up to local chains, bringing the barbeque sandwich back on a limited but national scale. Some purists question the return of a rib sandwich without any bones, but Fearson has an answer to that, too: That gives it, she told USA Today, this quirky sense of humor.
McDonald's limited-time items are often big hits, and the promise of a McComeback often draws a huge costumer base. Other times, however, the results are less successful.
While McDonald's Monopoly continues to be a surefire success, with Business Insider even doing a probe on How McDonald's Monopoly Game Became So Ridiculously Successful, other products, like the Hulaburger, go down as some of the most infamous failed products in fast food history. Here, count down our top ten, best to worst, of McDonald's famous cash ploys, from comebacks like the McRib and hits like Monopoly to the disastrous premiere of McDonald's McAfrica (trust me, we wish we were joking).