Brand Story


Consumer emotion & the birth of a new paradigm

By the early 1980s over half of McDonald’s revenue came from drive-thru lanes.
So, McDonald’s asked us some basic questions:
  • Who are these drive-thru customers?
  • What motivates them?
  • How do we serve them better?

McDonald’s did not ask us questions about increasing revenue and profitability. They did not ask us to help develop new products. And, we were not doing what they call menu board research in the fast food franchise business. Nor were we doing work on pricing, value or customer service. We were doing in-depth strategic research on customer motivation.
Many of our respondents, all McDonald’s brand loyalists, were conflicted about what to eat and what to order, especially between meals when they are in a hurry. They felt guilty for snacking or squeezing in a fourth meal. We could see and hear the guilt and conflict as they relived recent experiences.

They asked themselves questions:
  • Should I get a burger and a drink?
  • Should I just get a burger?
  • Should I get some friend and a drink?
  • Or should I just go ahead and order all three: the burger, fries and a drink?

"We were doing in-depth strategic research on customer motivation."
McDonalds needed to make the drive thru experience as frictionless as possible so customers would feel better about the food, themselves and the brand.

So, we recommended a numbering system to represent a combination of three items without a discount. “I’ll have a number 3 is much easier than saying “I’ll have a Big Mac, fries and a Coke!” in addition to answering the ensuing questions.

Within a year McDonalds was advertising the Combo Meal

Our Solution

Using the Combo Meal strategy, McDonald’s revenue went up, profit went up, volume in the drive-thru went up and soon other fast food franchise companies adopted the strategy to the tune of $199 Billion dollars a year in the United States alone. Eventually, fast food franchises all over the world- in 150+ countries, had incorporated the strategy.

A new paradigm was born.