McEnnials? Sorry, McDonald’s Doesn’t Own Them.

McDonald’s wants Millennials. Of course they do. There are 60 Million Millennials (loosely defined as 18-34 year olds), roughly 20% of the U.S. population. But McDonald’s is rightfully worried about whether they have the right stuff to continue to attract and retain Millennials. This was the subject of an interesting article in the May 22 USA Today called, McDonald’s is pushing to get more Millennial savvy.

McDonald’s is no different than virtually all marketers who understand the size, power, influence and changing habits of the 18-34 aged demo labeled Millennials. Just as the 77Million Baby Boomers have been (and continue to be) a societal shaping key demographic, the large Millennial group have a major impact on most brands (see Millennial Mashup), particularly in the quick service restaurant (QSR) category.

Millennials consume information (and food) and make brand choices in ways unlike their predecessors. As it relates to QSR preferences, McDonalds used to be the overwhelming brand of choice of the 18-34 demo, but in today’s world there are many more options and Mickey D’s isn’t the brand of choice as often.

To understand why this is, it’s important to appreciate some of their dominant characteristics. First of all Milennials are tethered to their smart phones. In fact they are intimate with their devices as more than 80% of them sleep with their phone. McDonald’s was a pioneer in offering wi-fi, so on this dimension McDonald’s was wise. But with information comes new behaviors.

For example, McDonald’s lacks the casual dining experience of Chipotle or Panera. And they are getting out-burgered by chains like Five Guys. McDonald’s still has a role but the reality is that the McDonald’s dining experience just isn’t a happening. It’s merely an opportunity to get some low cost grub and it’s hard for McDonald’s to “McCafe” itself into being trendy.

Furthermore, though Millennials hardly make nutritional choices as the primary food decision criteria, McDonald’s continues to been seen as the low man on the nutritional totem pole.

So will McDonald’s struggle to retain their share of stomach? Perhaps. But they didn’t become the QSR behemoth by being on the defensive. Expect new concepts and new thinking as they continue to evolve.

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