Q&A with McDonald’s Philippines SVP-Marketing Margot Torres on Winning Visit Frequency

Q1: McDonald’s started the fastfood trend worldwide with the insight “people don’t dine, they eat and run.” They created many firsts which are now standard in fast food. What are firsts that McDonald’s has launched in the Philippines?

Innovation and relevance are important for McDonald’s to stay on top of a fast-paced industry. Here in the Philippines, McDonald’s introduced the concept of a quick-service restaurant when it arrived in 1981. In 1982, we opened the first drive-thru restaurant located in Greenhills. McDonald’s was also the first restaurant to offer our youngest customers [kids] their own set meal, the Happy Meal, which comes with a toy and red box with every purchase.

To better respond to our customers’ changing needs, we needed to adapt, be faster and be more accessible. This paved the way for McDonald’s to pioneer services such as 24-hour restaurants, 24×7 McDelivery, and be the first quick-service restaurant to launch an app.

As a company with over 32,000 employees, we are also the first to have a special program for our employees wherein upon completion of our Restaurant Manager Development Program, they can qualify for a college degree in partnership with Lyceum of the Philippines University.

Also recognizing the role that we play in the communities where we operate, we are proud to be one of the first and longstanding corporate partners of the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) for their Special Program for the Employment of Students or SPES.  The program aims to help underprivileged but deserving students to pursue their college education by providing or augmenting their income through part time employment. Over 3,600 students across the country have been employed as part time McDonald’s crew members under SPES.

Q2: McDonald’s only has about half of its main competitor’s stores in the Philippines but market penetration and frequency appears to be improving, what makes people visit McDonald’s more often nowadays?

McDonald’s customers keep coming back because of the food we provide. We continuously work hard to provide them with good value for their money, quality food that not only tastes great but is made with fresh ingredients and served hot. Just like anywhere else in the world, our iconic products like the Big Mac, Cheeseburger, Fries and Egg McMuffin have become favorites through the decades. Customers have also come to love our local menu offers like Chicken McDo, Burger McDo, McSpaghetti and Crispy Chicken Fillet with rice.

Another reason why our customers visit us more often is that we continually surprise and delight them with menu innovations or new products available only during certain times of the year such as Twister Fries, Shake Shake Fries and different McFlurry and McFloat flavors.

We don’t stop with our food because how and where they are enjoyed is equally important.

We are proud of our clean and well-maintained stores – with modern and stylish store designs that are world-class and give our customers a comfortable and relaxing dining experience.

Total customer experience even outside of our stores has really helped us in improving penetration and frequency. McDonald’s is committed to make it more convenient for customers to enjoy our food through different channels. You can order anytime anywhere through McDelivery and its numerous access points like our hotline (86-2-36), website (mcdonalds.com.ph) and most recently, through our McDo PH App, which reached 1 million downloads in less than 2 months after it was released.

Q3: Despite strong hold of the more upscale consumers, prices of McDonald’s are now matching that of local leader Jollibee. Will this not affect your average check which used to be higher than competition? Why change your pricing strategy?

We put a lot of effort into making sure all Filipinos are able to try and enjoy our world-famous food. An important strategy for McDonald’s is to reach more customers and make the brand more accessible, not just by opening more stores, but making our menu more afforable.

We introduced Everyday McSavers and McSaver Meals to offer customers affordable prices everyday, and not just for a limited promotional period.

By making McDonald’s more accessible to more customers we have grown our customer base and encourage them to visit us more frequently.

Q4: McDonald’s has so many beautiful ads. What makes your creatives different from others? What criteria do you use to judge your own ads?

There really is no silver bullet to making great commercials or ads. It all starts with having a strong partnership with our creative and media agencies, Leo Burnett and Starcom respectively. We then strengthen that by going through a lengthy process anchored on consumer insights.

We also have the McDonald’s creative screens and brand personality as framework when creating and judging the work.

Needless to say, behind every McDonald’s creative ad you see is months and months of research, team collaboration and hard work to make sure the final output is perfect.

Q5: Fast food has been the poster child of obesity like softdrinks for diabetes. What can you say about this?

It is never only just about the food you eat, but your total lifestyle and having an active one.

Q6: What are new trends happening in the fast food industry worldwide?

Given the faster lifestyle and the need for convenience, some major trends we are seeing are the increase in popularity of “snacking” and “to-go” options.  We have also observed the growth of specialized/high-quality coffee culture and buying of group meals to get more value.

Trends definitely affect the dynamics of our business, but we are excited to grow and change with our consumers.

Q7: What are the three most successful marketing campaigns which you have initiated for McDonald’s? Can you elaborate?

The three most memorable campaigns for me are 2008’s cheeseburger campaign which led to the iconic phrase “Pa-cheeseburger ka naman!” which celebrates even the mundane, “Hooray for Today” in 2012 since it was our first highly successful thematic campaign for breakfast encouraging consumers to start their day on a positive note [“hooray for today” even becoming an expression in everyday conversations and on social media] and 2014’s “Better Together” campaign that encouraged the youth to go offline and enjoy bonding moments with loved ones in the real world which was the insight behind the introduction of our bundled group meals.

As a bonus, I wanted to add a 4th and 5th favorite which are the TV spots featuring “Kuya Pao” which was the story about 2 brothers enjoying breakfast at McDonald’s and “Downtown” our Happy Meal TV ad featuring a Lola and her grand daughter going out together to visit McDonald’s.  I have a soft spot for campaigns that share stories about family relationships.

Q8: What are your hard-to-forget marketing failures? Please share some nuggets of wisdom that our young readers can learn from.

Many years in marketing and I would never let go of these two lessons –

The first lesson is marketing professionals should remind themselves that reacting to competition results in tactical, short term moves that become detrimental to the brand’s long term goals.

My second piece of advice is the popular saying – too many cooks spoil the broth. As a marketing leader, make sure you have a clear point of view, but never compromise by pleasing everyone in the organization.

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