How Will McDonald’s Gaming Strategy Influence Its 2018 Marketing?

"McDonald's is historically a fun brand" says Tim Snyder, McDonald's digital business optimization director. "Gaming is just a natural extension of what we're doing right now with Uber Eats and delivery."

For the most part, McDonald’s mobile strategy over the past year has largely revolved around omnichannel convenience: making it easy for customers to order and get what they want as fast as possible.

To be sure, that’s helped McDonald’s consistently win the QSR foot-traffic wars. As McDonald’s President and CEO Stephen Easterbrook told analysts during the company’s Q3 earnings call in October,  the chain’s Experience of The Future digital program added mobile ordering and pay at roughly all of its 14,000 restaurants by the end of 2017.

And through McDonald’s partnership with Uber’s on-demand food delivery offering, UberEATS, consumers can order items to their door from 5,000 franchises.

But in a conversation with Tim Snyder, McDonald’s digital business optimization director, a big part of McDonald’s interactive marketing focus is about fun and games — literally. (Snyder was a speaker at Yext’s Onward 17 conference in November. Full disclosure: Yext owns GeoMarketing. More details on our relationship here.)

GeoMarketing: You talked about reaching McDonald’s consumers through gaming. Why is that important?

Tim Snyder: The reason is that we want to be able to provide opportunities to transact in more places – not just at our actual restaurants. In a larger sense, gaming works for us because McDonald’s is historically a fun brand. Gaming is just a natural extension of what we’re doing right now with Uber Eats and delivery. It could be a great opportunity for us to reach customers at a great moment in time to enjoy McDonald’s.

Is any particular form of gaming meaningful for marketers? Are we mainly talking about mobile app gaming? Can McDonald’s use a console experience like Xbox?

Gaming in general is really interesting. You obviously have your console gaming, which is huge. There’s a lot of digital connectivity around that when you’re playing players from across the world. And mobile is naturally important. We already have an active mobile user base within our own app. I’m looking to introduce fun moments in time for those customers, as well. Again, the point is to find customers when they’re ready to transact. Unlike other kinds of digital formats, gaming has natural breaks that you don’t necessarily have when using, for example, social media.

The Yext Onward panel you were on discussed the use of unstructured data and making unbranded menu items searchable. Considering how deeply ingrained McDonald’s brand is in the minds of consumers globally, does the concept of unbranded menu search have any meaning for you?

Absolutely. 96 percent of our listings display from unbranded queries. People are searching for “Burgers near me.” So with that in mind, it’s definitely important to us. And what we’re doing with Yext is really just making sure all of our information is accurate. Phone number, location, hours, key amenities like PlayPlace and our menu.

McDonald’s is one of the largest franchisees in the world and the brand has pioneered the use of digital presence in terms of ensuring that those locations are all easily discoverable. How has the strategy and approach of digital and location discovery changed?

The next natural step for a consumer when they find a McDonald’s that they want to visit is to launch a navigation app to bring you to the restaurant or to place an order from their phone. We had a very big clean-up effort initially with Yext. Our next focus is to continue to find opportunities to remove friction from the customer journey.

As you said, the franchises are part of a co-op program. Are they on they’re own to a certain extent when it comes to cleaning up the data around locations? Or is this kind of your issue or a corporate issue? Or is it both?

It’s a total McDonald’s issue to address. Both corporate and franchisees understand the importance of accurate data, which is why we initially engaged Yext. Maintaining accuracy and continuing to create more structured data for all elements of the restaurant experience is a collective effort.

About The Author
David Kaplan David Kaplan @davidakaplan

A New York City-based journalist for over 20 years, David Kaplan is managing editor of A former editor and reporter at AdExchanger, paidContent, Adweek and MediaPost.