McDonald’s Asia CMO on his first-ever global World Cup marketing campaign and more

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Eugene Lee opens up in a wide-ranging interview about its upcoming 2022 FIFA marketing campaign, leveraging creativity, the metaverse, their menu and his own advertising role

Sep 30, 2022 09:57:00 AM | Article | Nikita Mishra

The 2022 FIFA World Cup which begins on November 20 in Qatar is underneath scrutiny for its suitability as a venue, the human rights suffering and the extremely late autumn begin. But for manufacturers biting the bullet, it is ripe with momentous advertising opportunities for numerous reasons: Qatar 2022 will make history by bringing the World Cup to the Middle East for the primary time. It will happen in the course of the much-hyped purchasing festivals like Black Friday, Cyber Monday and simply forward of Christmas. That scale, combined with the depth, the frenzy of soccer and the truth that it is amongst the few sporting occasions to go on schedule for the explanation that pandemic might be a key performance advertising opportunity for global brands.


“It is an exciting time within the calendar,” says McDonald’s Asia CMO Eugene Lee, who sat down with Campaign Asia-Pacific to speak about their first-ever international marketing campaign in company history, launched on the World Cup. “Every single market during which we function will activate Qatar 2022 campaign at the similar time,” he says.


While not divulging McDonald’s general media spend with the marketing campaign, Lee was joyful to debate the work which celebrates the emotional construct of followers, fandom and the “I’m Lovin’ it” jingle.

Eugene Lee, McDonald’s Asia CMO


McDonald’s has had a protracted relationship with the FIFA World Cup. As the official sponsor of the upcoming Qatar World Cup in November, inform us concerning the campaigns in store for football followers.


We have something massive and thrilling planned for the biggest sporting occasion. Internally, we are calling it ‘The Power of One’. I can let you know that will probably be our first-ever global campaign and it’s an essential part of our model calendar. The campaign will match the scale, depth and delight within the sport. Every single market during which McDonald’s operates will activate it every week or two previous to the World Cup and the most effective half is, although it’s a world activation, it’ll nonetheless be relevant domestically.


The region-wide success of the BTS Meal gave us the boldness within the power of scale and cross-market collaboration. In this emotional construct, we are placing football followers on the coronary heart of the marketing campaign. The message is very clear, even when you can’t agree on your soccer group, you possibly can always agree on McDonald’s. You can assist France, and I can assist Germany, however we will always agree on McDonald’s for a meal.


Which agencies have worked to bring this concept to life? And what was the type of temporary given to them for this international activation?


Publicis Groupe and Wieden+Kennedy have labored on the marketing campaign and OMD is on the media facet. We are pushed by insights for all of the campaigns and this time the choice was to put the focus on the followers and not football. We needed to do something on the individuals, the fans behind the game quite than the sport itself. 


Everyone desires a bite of the metaverse. What’s in retailer for McDonald’s?


Metaverse and gaming are the buzzwords of at present and you’re right, everybody needs a chew of the metaverse. There are lots of behind-the-scenes talks happening, we are formulating a method however there’s nothing concrete in place. We don’t want to be the first mover or leap into it instantly until there is a proper understanding of the section.


Let me give an example: Gaming is alleged to be a billion-dollar industry. Brands rush to include it in their strategy with cookie-cutter advertisements showing avid gamers as sofa potatoes, elbow preventing with a controller in hand while sipping soda. I am a gamer myself and I shrug at how avid gamers are patronised in advertisements. This just isn’t the way to enter a section and it’s carried out by manufacturers who don’t perceive the viewers in any respect. So, we don’t want to do it fast but do it right.


So, what would that entail?


To be honest, no one knows completely. It could presumably be gaming or NFTs where we create unique digital collectibles or personalised gadgets, however at this level of time we don’t have a consolidated playbook to move ahead.


Is the metaverse a good place to make money?


Currently it’s an engagement device. I haven’t seen companies rake in commercial success. At this level, I really feel it’s an engagement software for brands. A platform to have a presence, to please your costumers and keep on tendencies. How that translates into direct sales we haven’t seen or don’t know but. The subsequent two years might be important for that.


You turned the Asia CMO proper in the course of the pandemic, overseeing 12 very numerous Asian markets. It will need to have been quite the baptism by fire?


It actually was! I stepped into the regional function, visited one market which was the Philippines and the the world turned upside down. Having been born and raised in Malaysia, I knew that market at the again of my hand and often visited the American and European markets previous to the pandemic. But not having an intimate understanding of the Asian markets was a big pain level in the initial months. Virtual interactions are all good, however you can’t really ‘know’ the food scene and the people without bodily being current.


What were the main learnings from the period?


In a deep crisis don’t think of innovation or new streams of income, as an alternative use all efforts to give consideration to the core enterprise, keep agile and observe buyer calls for. For us, despite the very fact that we are accustomed to doing enterprise in changing environments, the supply chain concern hit us on such an unprecedented scale that nobody might have planned or predicted it. Our core business is Big Macs, McChicken, French fries and coffee—focussing on that labored well. We didn’t have the bandwidth, nor the logistics sorted for a new product launch for auxiliary streams of revenue.


McDonald’s did better than most restaurant chains in the course of the pandemic. A big purpose was your prior investment in the ‘3 Ds’: supply, drive-thru, and digital. Now that dine-in is again, are you proceed to planning to double down on delivery?


We are positively championing the 3 Ds further as a result of you’re right, they gave us a competitive edge within the pandemic. And now, even though dine-in is again in full swing, how the world eats has modified dramatically. Delivery still accounts for one-third of our business within the area. That’s a big figure and has tremendous potential sooner or later.


Prior to the pandemic delivery got us 10% of our business, it shot up to 50% in the course of the lockdowns, except for a couple of markets like Hong Kong the place dine-in remained sturdy throughout the pandemic. The figure has stabilised at a brand new baseline of 30% now. Delivery is effectively the e-commerce for F&B, and no firm can afford to disregard that shift. In reality, we’re rethinking our business model to double down on the 3 D’s and refine our advertising message to offer a push to this segment.


How important is it for iconic legacy brands to tap their inside start-up?


Innovation is every thing for survival, you can’t let concern stop you.


For us, it translates to localisation which that is a crucial facet for development in Asia. We are a giant international MNC however function like a SME in each single market. From menus to marketing calendars, every little thing is tweaked and localised. Our high vendor in Hong Kong is Fillet-o-Fish, it’s Mc Aloo Tikki in India, Bulgogi Burger in South Korea, McSpaghetti in Philippines: honouring each unique culinary preference available in the market we function is important to our success.


Meatless choices aren’t solely environment-friendly but in addition good for well being. Research suggests that Asia accounts for 39% of luncheon meat gross sales globally. In 2021, you launched meatless menus in China but quickly discontinued it. Any word on its debut once more or has the sizzle of McPlant fizzled for good?

We haven’t any plans for meatless options in Asia in the intervening time. I suppose it’s nonetheless area of interest at this point, plant-based is not a fad but not accepted by the plenty either. We examined and tried plant-based meat in China and extra lately in Taiwan, however there wasn’t any business success on this part of the world. Our new focus is to search out chicken-based meatless options, the market for it is growing faster than for beef merchandise. 


Right before the pandemic, it looked like plant-based meat is starting a food revolution but in a dramatic reversal of fortune, Beyond Meat’s stock plummeted virtually 70% in 2021.


A yr into the regional CMO’s chair: Are you lovin’ it?


So far, positively. [Haha].


I was at all times a really hands-on ‘market person’. And if you end up in a market position, like I was in Malaysia for 11 years, the usual college of thought is that regional guys are fluff: they don’t know us or our landscape, they’re extra talk and fewer action because they have a really impractical or excessive degree, high view of issues.


How the tables have turned now. How are you doing things differently?


[Laughs]. I suppose my biggest strength is empathy—for folks, for the market, our potential, pitfalls—everything. The micro understanding of ideas, concepts and methods having worked in Malaysia for is a large vantage point. At some stage, I have labored alongside most of my CMOs as peers, that will get me plenty of belief and respect. When I suggest one thing radical, folks don’t suppose ‘Eugene is speaking via his arse’ because they’ve seen the transformation in Malaysia, they know after I say it’s doable, it genuinely is doable. It additionally helps that I understand the shortcomings in sure implementations, and I discover that very useful.


You’ve typically stated that elevating and evangelising the artistic index in the region is your objective. How are you faring?


True, it’s quality over quantity for me. We produce upwards of 20 campaigns per market per yr, and generally this results in a quantity strategy in our advertising. My greatest goal is to flip that mindset round. Internally we have a scale for measuring the inventive index for every campaign we do. Every month, each single piece of work accomplished by all of the markets in the area are introduced in front of a panel of 150 marketers, both inner and external, who choose and fee the creativity and artistic bravery of the campaign.


This helps in reflecting on the work and results in better learning from one another. When I first joined the regional function, our rating on a scale of zero to 10 was 4.8. In 2021, it improved to 5.3. Right now, we are at 5.5. My goal is to get it up to 6 or even 7. But I am pleased with the fixed upward trajectory, it reveals we’re breaking the rulebook and never adopting the cookie cutter strategy.


Creativity or conversionas a marketer what’s extra necessary for promoting effectiveness?


That’s an excellent question. I would say each are important, however for me, creativity and creative bravery are the undisputed king. There are lots of variables which drive the success of a campaign such as price, placement, context, attain etc. Through our own inside research, we now have found that 50% of conversions are instantly linked to creativity. The remaining 50% comes from right placement. So, we need to concentrate on both the elements.

What has been your most profitable marketing campaign that still sparks inspiration?

It will certainly be the relaunch of Ayam Goreng, the fried chicken in Malaysia in 2017. We had this fried rooster on the menu for over 30 years however by no means actually advertised it. It was at all times a silent champion driving around 15% of the gross sales quantity which is tremendous for a product not put on the forefront. Up till that point, McDonald’s was solely known for burger and KFC was the king for fried chicken, but this one campaign changed all that.


The brief and the idea to the advertising company was fully totally different. I wanted to showcase actual, common people enjoying the fried rooster in actual life settings. So, we did simply that: put the camera in entrance of hundreds of people consuming the fried hen and captured their true emotions. Like I said, creativity and placement go hand in hand. We decided to play this campaign in theatres earlier than and after the movies; the crunch sound amplified in Dolby digital, the authenticity of the cast created a phenomenal influence. One campaign modified the notion that McDonald’s is just a burger model. We challenged KFC in its core territory and inside one week of the campaign, all of the Ayam Goreng’s were sold out in Malaysia.


What is your favourite McDonald’s memory?


Eating hamburgers and using on the slides at Mega Playland close to my home. I must have been four or 5 at the time however clearly keep in thoughts that pleasure of swings and quick food!


What’s your favourite McDonald’s food?


A double cheeseburger with French fries stuffed in it. Oh, and loaded with ketchup. I love it! Cheese makes everything better.


Share a fun reality which individuals don’t know about McDonald’s, a McTrivia?


You can ask for extra cheese on something within the menu. Absolutely anything! And did I say cheese makes every thing better?


Take a daring prediction: Will McDonald’s ever be recognized for more than burgers and fries?


No, no less than not in my lifetime. But again, never say never: if tomorrow consumers demand  one thing totally totally different, we are going to start promote that however realistically, we will at all times be identified for our core business.

(The interview has been edited for brevity and readability. This article first appeared on 

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