McDonald’s might have started in the USA, but that hasn’t stopped Singaporeans from forming an obsession with its food. The fast food chain has opened over 135 outlets islandwide since 1979, so everyone can have a thick McSpicy whether they’re in the heartlands or in an ulu neighbourhood.
The consistency of McDonald’s offerings is not the only secret to its success locally. Over the last few years, they’ve been revving up with a series of campaigns and collaborations designed to get Singaporeans to do their favourite things – eating and queuing up. We take a look at some of their best ones yet.
1. Shake ‘N Dip – Dance and get a free ice cream cone
The rise of TikTok meant that dance challenges were back in vogue, and McDonald’s was not remiss to let that opportunity go to waste. For their Shake ‘N Dip campaign in June 2022, customers could do a little shake and dip dance to get a free ice cream cone.
To get the word out, McDonald’s commissioned influencers Bong Qiu Qiu and Jamie Yeo to spread the news about this neat life hack on their Instagram profiles. It soon took off with plenty of publications covering their antics, which led to more people finding outlet managers to claim their complimentary dessert.
One advertising executive who has worked with McDonald’s told TheSmartLocal that this was in line with their philosophy to always deliver a “feel-good” and family-oriented campaign.
Why it worked: Singaporeans love free food and doing a simple dance to get a free ice cream cone is a great deal. Sure, those who are anxious about doing something embarrassing in public might skip out on this. But those who don’t mind being silly for a quick minute can be rewarded with a sweet treat, and McDonald’s gets some “free” publicity when they share it on their socials.
Plenty of TikTok videos were uploaded with creators dancing to the Shake ‘N Dip song. Some clips were viewed over 200k times, with one even amassing 400k views.
2. Scream for Ice Cream – Get a free Hershey’s ice cream
@eatbooksgMcDonald’s ice cream from Singapore, Singapore.♬ AMAZING – Phoebe
Screaming for ice cream has gotten a bit passe. But McDonald’s brought this mantra into the present at their Funan outlet. Those craving a Hershey’s ice cream cone had 3 days from 29th-31st August to scream into a digital board with a plain ice cream cone displayed. This activation launched the same day that masks were made optional in Singapore, so Singaporeans could scream in a mall to their hearts delight.
The cone will slowly turn from vanilla into Hershey’s the louder they scream, and screamers will get a voucher to redeem the said cone once they hit the target decibel level. It’s a simple campaign that lets customers live out their childhood fantasies or for those who are stressed to let off steam.
Why it worked: While this was only limited to a few days, getting people to create a nuisance of sorts definitely draws eyeballs and attention. It’s also a timely idea to acknowledge the relaxation of the mask mandate in Singapore. And as we mentioned earlier: free food!
@yukianggia Replying to @Aisyah Siti Arum Sho ♬ Bad Habits – eydrey
A compilation of passerby’s struggling to scream into the machine was captured by TikTok content creator @yukianggia, scoring over 22.6m views and 1.6m likes in just over 10 days. If that isn’t a measure of virality, we don’t know what is.
3. McDonald’s x BTS – Satiate the ARMY’s appetite
Image credit: McDonald’s
Last year, McDonald’s shook the world when they announced a global collaboration with K-pop group BTS. Fans – affectionately known as ARMY – would get to savour the band’s favourite order: nuggets, fries, Coca-Cola, and some dipping sauces. However, what really set this apart was the purple-coloured packaging that came with the meal.
Image credit: McDonald’s
The limited-edition packaging was so well received that not only were they resold on Carousell by the dozen, creative ARMYs also turned them into sneakers. Yes, the nugget box, drink cup, and sauce packets were upcycled into a fashionable accessory.
Image credit: @josiahchua
Why it worked: Anything involving BTS is sure to generate a ton of hype and publicity regardless, so this campaign was bound to succeed from the get-go. The innovative ways that customers and fans upcycled the campaign collaterals only evolved the campaign and elevated it beyond a meal offered at McDonald’s.
4. McDonald’s McPepper with Pokémon packaging
Like it or not, another Singaporean obsession is Pokémon. And most recently, McDonald’s partnered with the international media franchise – specifically their trading card game – to bring back the McPepper burger wrapped in packaging featuring Charizard, a Pokémon known for breathing flames out of its mouth.
Image credit: Mike Arvin Bustos
However, what got Singaporeans excited was a Pikachu carrier that was only $12.90. Combine a cute accessory with affordability and you’ve got queues snaking around blocks an hour before it officially launched on 8th September.
McDonald’s also anticipated the demand and created a special queue for those who wanted to buy the carrier, making the day a more orderly affair.
Why it worked: Pokémon is such a global phenomenon familiar to folks young and old, and Pikachu is the undisputed face of the franchise. The fact that McDonald’s customers were offered an affordable carrier that they could add to their collection would’ve also attracted Pokémon fans who might not necessarily be McDonald’s fans.
5. McDonald’s x Hello Kitty – Long-standing partnership since 2000
Image credit: Dayana Rizal
Another global sensation that can rival Pokémon is Hello Kitty, and McDonald’s has had a long-standing partnership with them for many years. The first partnership was back in 2000 when Hello Kitty and her boyfriend Dear Daniel were dressed in a variety of wedding costumes and sold as stuffed animals across all 113 outlets in Singapore.
Rather than making all 6 editions available at once, McDonald’s released each edition on a weekly schedule, but that still wasn’t enough to combat the frenetic crowds. The first edition, Millennium Wedding, saw an estimated 250,000-300,000 people queue up islandwide. Those queues lasted way into the night, unfortunately inconveniencing residents living near McDonald’s in the heartlands.
Other editions also caused traffic jams, critically where drive-through outlets were located. There were also incidents of disorderly behaviour where the police were called. At the end of it all, some of these Hello Kitty stuffed toys were sold for at least $980 – and this is before we account for inflation and the Carousell effect.
Since then, Hello Kitty has made a comeback under the Golden Arches in other various designs, drawing huge crowds and queues each time. Thankfully, the resale price has since dropped to twice the cost, not 217 times more.
Why it worked: This was one of the first instances of a McDonald’s collaboration, and it was also a novel concept to most Singaporeans. Hello Kitty was already a familiar face by then to most locals, so this only drove more people to want to find out what the hype was about.
6. McDonald’s x Despicable Me – Long queues for happy meal toys
Image credit: Brand Eating
In case you haven’t observed a pattern already, McDonald’s loves forming a partnership with popular media franchises with cute mascots. Pokémon, then Hello Kitty, and now Despicable Me. While Singapore didn’t get the release that came with the first film, Despicable Me 2 saw a partnership with McDonald’s for Happy Meal toys, but it was the third film that saw the best collab.
In 2017 to commemorate the premiere of Despicable Me 3, McDonald’s launched a promotion that included custom packaging, Happy Meal toys, banana-flavoured ice cream, and minion-shaped potato bites. If the other items on the menu are a bit too “vanilla”, at least the Minion-shaped potatoes make for a quirky, new snack.
Why it worked: McDonald’s partnership with Despicable Me 2 saw snaking queues around its outlets when the exclusive Happy Meal toys came out; some locations had almost 200 people eagerly waiting. With this knowledge that there’ll be demand, the rollout for the third film gave McDonald’s enough confidence to release experimental products.
The Minion Potatoes saw so much fanfare that it was brought back again in 2020, even though there wasn’t a movie released that year.
7. McDonald’s apparel – Limited-edition hoodies & pyjamas
Image credit: McDonald’s
McDonald’s has also proven that they don’t need to partner with someone just to draw a crowd. When the streetwear trend hit its peak in 2019, the fast food giant decided to sell more than food. Yes, they started selling clothes.
McGriddles hoodies and pyjamas with burger and fries were sold in limited drops to drive demand and that FOMO feeling amongst hypebeasts.
Image credit: McDonald’s
A few years later, they expanded into accessories with crossbody bags that could fit a Big Mac or two inside.
There was also an Adidas x McDonald’s collaboration with sneakers, sliders, and clothes that were unfortunately only made available in the United States and Japan.
Why it worked: The streetwear hype in 2019 was infectious, and many brands were eager to hop on the bandwagon. McDonald’s releasing their apparel as limited-edition drops also made those who were unable to snag one feel some FOMO.
When the first loungewear collection was released, the demand was so high that the McDonald’s mobile app crashed due to high traffic. The collection was soon sold out, and scalpers began reselling them on Carousell for upwards of $120 per set.
Best McDonald’s campaigns in Singapore
After looking at these successful campaigns, the pattern is clear. McDonald’s found a winning recipe by partnering with familiar and globally-recognised brands that appeal to adults and children. Locally, giving free things to Singaporeans while encouraging them to spread the word has also been a proven strategy, although its longevity is not as long as a collaboration.