Hello Kitty craze stalls McDonald's site

Be it online or offline, one thing is for sure - when Hello Kitty sales are in town, be ready for mayhem.

Launched yesterday, Singapore was the first market to begin McDonald’s online Hello Kitty Bubbly World sales. McDonald’s launched a microsite just for the promotion. In about an hour, all of the Sanrio characters were gone. This was despite the set being priced at a somewhat steep SG$80.

Not long after the start of sales, McDonald’s updated its Facebook page, telling fans that while “the site is functioning”, due to extremely high traffic the site was “taking longer than usual to load”. A McDonald's spokesperson told Marketing that it had to halt sales until 7pm yesterday.

However, according to fans on its Facebook page, they could not receive payment confirmations. While the customer service team at McDonald’s actively tried to calm the raging public on the social media site, it was no match for the flood of angry comments taking over its Facebook page.

Why are people going crazy over Hello Kitty?

The question has been asked over and over, but yet the reaction from the public is enough to silence detractors.

And brand experts are calling McDonald's move a brilliant one.

"What the Hello Kitty collaboration brings is a strong brand strength and stature which McDonald's is leveraging on, and something that can be seen by the fact they were inundated with requests within hours of going on sale," Tom Child, strategist, Landor.

The Hello Kitty brand presence is especially strong in Asia and amongst Singaporeans, said Lawrence Chong, CEO of Consulus.

Today, from TV shows to merchandise, the Hello Kitty brand consciousness is fast becoming multi-layered and awareness is at an all time high.

“Therefore these two elements - the need to be part of a global narrative by posting a picture of the latest Hello Kitty conquest on social media and an active fan base nurtured with religious consistency makes Hello Kitty, a sign of our times and a must-have,” said Chong

He added that for a brand such as McDonald's, it makes a lot of sense to embrace this magnetic icon, saying the brand has been clever to take up the Kitty as a marketing tactic.

“Throughout McDonald's evolution as a brand, it has always been very clever in how it adopts the strategy of a broad church, by embracing superheroes and icons of the day, through partnerships with Disney and others to draw customers to its restaurants,” he added.

This is not the first time a brand has faced technical issues after a massively popular promotion took off. Last year Scoot also got more than it bargained for when it lured fans to an online game with attractive prizes and then had a massive technical glitch.

Crowd control at McDonald’s

The craze is set for the stores, coming next Monday, when McDonald’s will begin offering the promotion in its stores.

To its credit, learning from its earlier Hello Kitty and Minion fiascos, the fast food giant is making an attempt for crowd control this time around.

(Read also: HPB on the Hello Kitty and Minions craze)

A McDonald's spokesperson told Yahoo that it "will be implementing enhanced queue systems where appropriate". Also, each customer will only be allowed to purchase up to four toys per store visit.

The spokesperson also said the promotion saw "very strong response". He also added that the fast food chain had "significantly increased the number of plush toys available this year".