Cannes Lions



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In almost any other circumstance, it would be ludicrous to call McDonald’s a challenger brand.

McDonald’s is a market leader.

And it famously offers its customers simple, easy, enjoyment time and time again.

We don’t faff around, your favourite burger is reliably delicious, made consistently and delivered quickly.

However it’s a world away from the category conventions of the coffee category.

The market has been created codes and cues such as trendy baristas, limitless customisation and waiting around for your creation which denote quality.

This cultural contrast between us and the competition was stark.

And given we were far from being a leader in the category, we adopted a challenger brand mentality because that was exactly what the task demanded.

To challenging the madness of the category.

And offer people something no-one seemed capable of.

Great tasting coffee. Simple.


Our strategy set us up as a clear challenger to the status quo of coffee.

The creative idea played off this positioning by poking fun at the madness of the category.

Because set against a category that fetishised craft and customisation, and quite frankly believed its own hype…

…we became the refreshing antidote to a culture that had lost touch with reality.

We brought the above to life with humour and lightness of touch, highlighting the ridiculousness of it all; from coffee served in conical beakers to the overcomplicated menu choices.

In phase two, the introduction of the Flat White was a potential landmine for us.

Given the product itself embodied much about the market that we stood against.

Yet keeping true to our positioning we continued to puncture the pomposity of it all, and asked the question most were too afraid to ask; just what is a Flat White?


Back to basics

We’ve been coached by the category to think that coffee is about the experience.

And nice patterns on milk.

But the numbers tell us that coffee serves a very functional role in our lives.

So for all the talk of coffee shops becoming the ‘4th space’ in our lives and the incessant latte art that fills up the newsfeed…

The reality is, often we just want a coffee to act as a pick me up for what lies ahead.

Turning adequacy into an advantage

So given the importance of function in purchase behaviour, we started to see things very differently.

Farting on about the provenance of our beans or the ‘organicness’ of our milk was likely a red herring.

And what had seemed like an eternal drag on our efforts, the Masterbrand could finally be utilised as a strength to challenge the status-quo.

So instead of worrying about our quality credentials, we could embrace our adequacy and play to our functional strengths of simplicity, consistency and accessibility.

Seen through this new lens, we identified a clear opportunity for us take a counter cultural position in the market and say, when it comes to coffee, enough is enough.


We drove a substantial increase of 63% in propensity to trial (and associated boost to consideration, image and recommendation).

But most importantly, we delivered in both sales and market share.

McCafe grew 3.1% in 2016 (lower than total business growth), post campaign we achieved growth of 8.6% in 2017 and 9.4% in 2018, way ahead of total business.

Our value share of coffee increased substantially, from 3.2% in 2016 to 8.4% in 2018.

In the same period Costa’s share fell from 14.9% to 13.0%.

Our share is now higher than Starbucks, the brand that kickstarted the UK’s love for proper coffee.

The campaign also delivered a revenue ROI of £2.10 which represents an impressive return given the much lower value of the average McCafe transaction compared with other McDonald’s products.

we’ve just launched the third instalment of the campaign, showing there’s still plenty more coffee left in the pot. (sorry).

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