Business Lunch: The McRib

28 10 2011

Scarcity. It’s a great marketing tactic to create demand, and McDonald’s does it well with the McRib. You can’t get this sandwich whenever you want, it’s only offered once a year and at specific locations at limited times. And unlike the In-N-Out secret menu, which you can order from at any time of the year, the McRib is truly a marketing engine playing off of the basic economic principle of supply and demand – and, well, quirkiness since the McRib actually contains no ribs.

Per this TIME article, the McRib was introduced in 1982, disappeared in 1985, and then periodically introduced again and again in McDonald’s here in the states and abroad. The McRib hadn’t been sold nationally since 1994 until it was formally reintroduced last year in November. It’s a chemistry lab creation of 70 harmonious ingredients, including 980 mg of sodium, 26 g of fat, 10 g of saturated fat, and 500 calories. And this saucy number is all the rage.

Here’s an interesting tidbit, the the guy who won McDonald’s $1 million Monopoly grand prize last year was ordering — you guessed it — a McRib.

Interestingly enough, it’s up to McDonald’s franchises to determine when and if they want to sell the McRib, except in Germany where it is always available. Have no fear, there is a McRib Locator that tracks its availability nationwide.

So what product or service in your business can you promote with a little scarcity? Scarcity can give you an opportunity to deepen customer loyalty and offer you the chance to highlight and reward your VIP customers. Regardless, the perception of value and differentiation is of utmost important and it’s imperative that you follow-through on the offer. Beyond that, using scarcity as a marketing tactic is simply that, at tactic. And some work better than others.

…And sometimes, playing ‘hard to get’ is just plain fun.

Photo courtesy of geekosystem.




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