McDonald's Asia Eugene Lee on marketing BTS meal with 40% of usual media spend

The McDonald's BTS meal officially landed in Asia this week with Malaysia being the first country in Asia to debut the meal. Meanwhile, those in Singapore will have to wait a little longer as the meal's launch was recently pushed back to 21 June this year due to rising COVID-19 cases in the community and the implementation of tighter measures. 

Despite the meal needing no additional effort to drum up hype, McDonald's is still investing in localised media activations in Asia to spread the word, said regional director of marketing, Asia, Eugene Lee who is in charge of overseeing the BTS campaign in the region. However, Lee told MARKETING-INTERACTIVE that compared to other marketing campaigns in Asia, McDonald's did not require the same amount of media investment for the BTS meal. He said:

Due to the organic hype and power of word of mouth, we only needed to spend 30% to 40% of our usual campaign media budgets to garner the same impact.

While the local creative executions are similar across the board globally, each market plans its own media buy which are unique to fans in the countries. For example, in South Korea, McDonald's is heavily pushing the meal on Kakao Talk, the most popular messaging app in the market.

Lee explained that while an influencer marketing plan was put in place for the Malaysian market, Malaysia is currently selling six times more BTS meals than it projected. With the overwhelming response, the team has decided to hold off on its influencer marketing plans. Comparing the sales to the nasi lemak burger in Malaysia which sold four times more than projections, Lee said the BTS collaboration has far surpassed expectations. "What we are learning is that because of the nature of this being a once in a lifetime, truly global launch, the brand power of both McDonald’s and BTS coming together is more than enough to drive campaign performance - reducing the need for reliance on media," he said.

At the same time, the team in the Philippines is relying on TikTok due to the platform's large user base in the country while India is doubling down on influencer marketing to spread news and excitement about the BTS meal. Additionally, there will also be four straight weeks of in-app content for customers, with digital surprises being revealed each week featuring the band viewable exclusively on the app.

The Big Mac of ideas

Initially, the McDonald's BTS meal was supposed to be a US-only activation - similar to meal executions done with other music industry stars such as Travis Scott and J. Balvin in the US last year as part of the "Famous Orders" campaign. The insight behind the "Famous Orders" campaign is that no matter who you are or how famous, you will have a favourite McDonald's order.

However, given BTS' global popularity, especially in Asia, Lee said it would be 'a huge opportunity missed' if Asia was left out of the activation.

"The BTS meal is not a manufactured meal. It is actually BTS' favourite meal when they enjoy McDonald's in South Korea," he said. While Lee declined to reveal the ROI for this latest campaign, he said most countries in Asia are running the campaign for between two to four weeks. 

Additionally, McDonald's has also gone all out by unveiling a McDonald's X BTS line on global merchandise shop, Weverse Shop app. The head-to-toe collection is inspired by some of the hand-picked menu items from the BTS Meal, including items such as hoodies, purple bathrobes, socks and sandals. The line combines the iconic McDonald's red and gold with BTS purple.

bts order

A BTS commercial featuring its latest single "Butter" was also launched across all platforms such as TV, YouTube, Facebook, and TikTok to drive excitement across all age groups and audiences knowing how large BTS' appeal is. The commercial and all assets were produced centrally by US-based Wieden+Kennedy and shot in South Korea. 

Malaysia market reception

In Malaysia, it was reported that long queues formed at McDonald's outlets as fans flocked to purchase the meals. At the same time, The Star said social distancing rules were not observed and the Malay Mail also reported that some netizens were worried about a potential cluster forming.

Lee explained that most markets are encouraging fans to purchase the meals via delivery or drive-thru. Nonetheless, for customers that want to experience the excitement at the restaurant, they can still dine-in in countries that allow it or takeaway, obviously all with strict SOPs in place.  

Aside from the snaking queues, Malaysians were also spotted to be reselling empty food packaging and merchandise from the BTS meal on Shopee and Carousell. A search by MARKETING-INTERACTIVE found that some resellers have priced the food packaging from RM10 to RM50 online, while the merchandise is being sold between RM69 to RM455. 

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Commenting on the matter, Lee said McDonald's has seen these resale items and have expected them to go on resale too.

We don't encourage it but it is entirely the customers' right to resell the packaging.

"Fans of BTS love to collect anything official related to the band, and since the BTS meal is an official piece of history, the packaging is also becoming a resellable collectors' item," he explained. BTS' popularity continues to skyrocket as it inks more partnerships with global brands. Last month, it was named Louis Vuitton's global brand ambassador and will partner with the luxury brand on special projects and don Louis Vuitton for upcoming appearances. BTS also kicked off this year with a global campaign with the Coca-Cola Company known as "Turn up your rhythm". The campaign features BTS' cover of "Jungle", originally sung by American rock band X Ambassador. 

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