Remember the McDonald’s burger made exclusively for adults? Yea, neither does anyone else.
Reflection point: The assumptions & failures behind the Arch Deluxe.
McDonald’s needs no introduction. As the world’s leading global food service retailer, we see the Big Arches and know exactly what’s in store. Despite its successes, the fast food restaurant has faced its fair share of failures — some less pronounced and others horrifically gargantuan.
In the case of the Arch Deluxe burger, we’re talking about an excruciating $300 million flop.
Here’s the Arch Deluxe. Sold in 1996, the burger was marketed specifically to adults in an effort to cater to the demographic trend of longer lifespans and an expanding older market. McDonald’s sought to extend themselves beyond their child-focused image, and they marketed the Arch Deluxe as an exceptionally tasty burger with “sophisticated” ingredients.
Unfortunately, people didn’t like it, and the product was quickly discontinued. Interestingly enough, McDonald’s conducted extensive market research prior to creating the Arch Deluxe, and research revealed that adults wanted to eat a burger specifically designed for them. So what happened?
Assumption: Older customers will be turned off by our child-focused products. What actually happened: Customers felt iffy about the “grown-ups only” advertisements for the Arch Deluxe. After all, McDonald’s brand identity was all about keeping the meals simple and child-friendly. The Arch Deluxe deviated too much from what people knew about the company.
Assumption: This adult burger must have “grown-up” ingredients distinct from the ingredients we use in our other burgers. What actually happened: Customers were not impressed by the ingredients and complained about the increased caloric count. McDonald’s was not a place for superior culinary flavors, and customers were perfectly content with that. The Golden Arches were for speed and convenience, and no one came for sophistication.
Assumption: We spent a great deal of time and money on this research, and it told us “yes.” That means we should do it. What actually happened: When carefully conducted, market research can be incredibly helpful, but it is not the end-all be-all. Skepticism is advisable — there may be confounding variables, or perhaps, in the case of the Arch Deluxe, by the time the research was concluded, the results become outdated or obsolete. As an additional note, critics pointed out that McDonald’s major hits (e.g. Big Mac, Egg McMuffin, Filet o’ Fish) were all invented in kitchens out in the field, whereas the Arch Deluxe was created in the headquarters kitchen in Illinois. (Interestingly enough, other failed McDonald’s products also came out of the Illinois location.)
Somehow, in its quest for customer development, McDonald’s lost touch with its customers and its original value propositions. The Arch Deluxe continues to be a prominent example of brand failure today.