McDonald’s gets social over coffee grams

Fast food chain brings back annual free coffee giveaway

Screen Shot 2016-02-29 at 12.18.39 PMMcDonald’s Canada is once again giving away free coffee to try to lure consumers to its restaurants and take a growing share of the increasingly competitive java industry.

This year’s free coffee campaign, which runs until March 6, is being held in conjunction with the east-to-west roll out of the brand’s McCafé & Bakery locations across Canada. It’s also part of an ongoing strategy to change the perception of McDonald’s as offering more than just burgers and fries.

“It gives guests a chance to experience the whole McCafé offering for themselves,” says Catherine Crozier, McDonald’s McCafe growth platform lead, based in Toronto. This is the 14th time McDonald’s has offered its free coffee promotion, which started in 2009, Crozier says. The difference this year is that consumers can help spread the word online by sending coffee grams, with messages like “You’re cute,” “You’re the best” or “Thank God it’s free coffee.”

“Coffee really lends itself to the social environment,” Crozier says. “We are really loud and proud with this promotion,” adds Crozier. The promotion includes TV spots, including one that aired during the Oscars on Sunday night, as well as radio, out-of-home and social media.

McDonald’s has doubled its market share in the Canadian coffee industry since the promotion began seven years ago, and has tripled its coffee sales, Crozier says. “It’s a very important part of our marketing mix,” she says.

The free coffee campaign was launched with the support of McDonald’s Canada’s creative agency, Cossette, as well as its media buyer OMD and digital agency Tribal Worldwide, which is behind the coffee gram part of the promotion. Crozier says the company will also continue to market the cross-country phase launch of its bakery division, which includes pastries such as danishes and croissants.

There are now revamped bakeries at locations across the country, with many more opening up soon. Crozier says McDonald’s expects to have the bakery items available at many of its other locations across the rest of Canada by the end of 2017. “It’s part of the evolution of our restaurant to include both a beverage and a menu offering behind the McCafé brand,” she says.

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