McDonald’s has around 1,300 restaurants in China where it goes by the Chinese name of 麦当劳 (Màidāngláo). While it is just as popular in the Mainland as it is in the Western world, its important to understand that outside the major cities, dining at McDonald’s is really expensive in comparison to most local restaurants – quite the contrary to countries like the UK or USA.
It’s also worth noting that McDonald’s lags behind its largest rival, KFC, partly owing to Chinese diners being more familiar with chicken than beef hamburger products. While McDonald’s upping its game by offering a variety of chicken options that can only be bought in China, there are still substantially more KFC restaurants in China than there are McDonald’s restaurants.
So to that end, McDonald’s is now trying a new tactic to persuade chicken loving Chinese consumers that its chicks are best.
At the forefront is a “controversial” TV ad that launched last week to highlight how its chickens are 100% natural:
The television commercial has been surrounded by controversy as Chinese netizens have been commenting on the fact that McDonald’s kills those cute little chicks and turns them into burgers.
Alongside the TV commercial, McDonald’s has created a mini-site dedicated to promoting how well the organisation treats its chickens at www.weijijiemi.cn, hosted with popular Chinese online video-sharing website Tudou. The name of the site, “Wéi jī jiěmì” (唯鸡解密), is a play on words of the Chinese name for “Wikileaks”, so in English it probably can be referred to as “Chickileaks“.
Upon entering, the main page hosts six online videos that show how the chicks have good, healthy, natural lives (before they are slaughtered into chicken burgers — which is not shown). Interestingly, despite the minisite being hosted on Tudou, that hasn’t stopped three of the six videos from appearing on rival video-sharing website Youku:
The above video is the first in the series of six, and while there are no readily accessible statistics for how many times it has been viewed on the Tudou-hosted promotional minisite, this copy has accumulated ~480k views on Youku since it was uploaded 6 days ago. On Youku, the second video generated only 288k views after 5 days whereas the third video has accumulated over 510k views so far after 4 days.
Despite reasonably high view counts, all three videos are dogged by low engagement with viewers, mustering very few comments or upvotes/downvotes. In fact, as of this time, two of the three videos available on Youku have more downvotes than upvotes.
Central to the promotion is the opportunity for Chinese netizens to win a one of 50,000 free McDonald’s chicken sandwich combo meals being given away simply by sharing a link to the minisite and videos on popular Chinese microblogging service Sina Weibo and popular Chinese social networks RenRen (formerly known as Xiaonei) and Kaixin001. Finally, the chicken sandwich combo meal itself is promoted with a 16.5 RMB (2.50 USD) promotional lunchtime price, roughly 20% cheaper than the next cheapest “extra value meal” on McDonald’s regular menu.
Whether these efforts will persuade the Chinese to switch from KFC remains to be seen.
Just for fun…
If you want to see a little more about the battle between McDonald’s and KFC in China, check out this video created by Crystal CG: