People get excited, rather than annoyed, when they’re manipulated by the threatened disappearance of something they want and rush to buy it.
The McRib sandwich from McDonald’s, which consists of a boneless pork patty formed into the shape of ribs, covered with BBQ sauce, and topped with raw onions and pickles, has become a cult favourite due in large part to its scarcity. McDonald’s advertising often uses the phrase “while supplies last,” signalling that the McRib is only available for a short period.
This promotion started in 1981 at the American locations of the company and went on until 1985. As a result of poor sales, this item was removed from the regular menu. McDonald’s released the McRib as a seasonal item in the late ’80s as an attempt at lighthearted product innovation. They planned a limited distribution at first, in some locations around the United States and maybe beyond.
McDonald’s observed the similarities between its McRib and the cuisine in the 1994 Flintstones film, so they formed a partnership with the film’s creators. In the classic television commercial for the sandwich, Flintstones cast member Rosie O’Donnell made a cameo.
In 2005, McDonald’s used the McRib Farewell Tour to say goodbye to the sandwich and boost sales. The marketing firm Moroch Partners came up with the idea, and rumour has it that it took a lot of convincing before McDonald’s agreed to host the event.
The campaign’s ‘tongue-in-cheek’ tone was first met with scepticism, but it proved successful in gaining customers’ confidence. As a consequence, the sandwich is still available, but only at certain times of the year.
Due to its popularity, the McRib Farewell Tour spawned a sequel in 2006 and the third instalment in 2007. Since the roadshows went so well, the sandwich stayed on the menu, but the emphasis was put more on the season.
Chasing the McRib has evolved into a cultural phenomenon throughout the years, inspiring several TV programme parodies (including those of The Simpsons, How I Met Your Mother and Rosanne). In Full House, Becky asks “Joey, what’s going on? I haven’t seen you this excited since they brought back the McRib.”
McRib is available for a limited time only at certain locations nationwide. The media recommends calling ahead to make sure the restaurant serves the burger. This kind of publicity, along with the sandwich’s restricted supply, generates a sense of urgency and scarcity, which in turn drives up demand and makes buyers feel special. Accomplishing the goal of purchasing the sandwich is rewarding in and of itself.
Bloggers have written about the limited-time McRib, fans have joined social media groups to report “McRib sightings,” and even others have created websites devoted only to the famous sandwich as a consequence of the uncertainty of the McRibs’ arrival. Alan Klein, a big fan of the McRib, made the popular online resource McRib Locator, where other fans can talk about and share information about their quests to find the elusive sandwich. There are thousands of people who follow sandwich-related Facebook sites. Over four weeks, one fan ate 27 McRib sandwiches, which he proudly admitted. This McRib devotee said that he can’t help but fantasise about the pork sandwiches all day long while they’re in season. Many people get completely consumed by it. They are fixated on the rarity of this specific meal.
McRib was crucial in strengthening McDonald’s relationship with its consumers and attracting new ones. Fans are still going crazy to stock up on the sandwiches before they disappear off McDonald’s menus. The McRib has been around for over four decades because of its devoted fan base and McDonald’s knack for creating successful seasonal menu items.
The non-fungible token (NFT) was introduced in 2021 to commemorate McRib’s 40th anniversary and served as a statement that McDonald’s is open to new technologies, and, since the NFT is always accessible, it serves to reinforce the perception of the product’s popularity. McDonald’s participation in the NFT conversation is another sign that the fast food giant is actively trying to attract a new customer base: millennials and Gen Zers who are interested in blockchain, cryptocurrencies, and other cutting-edge technologies.
Does McRib increase revenue?
McDonald’s claims that 2010 sales were up by 4.8% thanks to the McRib. As a result of its cheap pricing (about $3 depending on area) and consistent return, McRib consistently drives up sales at McDonald’s.