Crossing the Rubicon: McDonald’s Krispy Kollab

Everything is a marketplace
October 19, 2022

Happy hump day, fellow futurists! 

OK we’re calling it, McDonald’s is officially a try-hard. Their collaboration strategy has almost jumped the shark (crossed the rubicon?) with their most recent announcement: Krispy Kremes will be sold in 9 stores as a test run in the remaining days of 2022. 

Why does this matter? By our count, this is collab #10 in recent memory: from Travis Scott and BTS in 2021, to the recent activations by Cactus Plant Flea Market, they’re putting the D in Mickey D’s, where D means “damn that’s a lot of collabs.”

This is the natural evolution cycle. Unbundling and rebundling. On a long enough time horizon, McD’s becomes a marketplace unto itself. By a marketplace we don’t mean “a place to transact myriad goods” — we mean it’s a massive channel for brand discovery and activation. 

For 40 years, Happy Meal toys have been advertising channels for popular culture and media, as much as it has been for internal brand development. Sure, the House of Ronald builds its own lore around Birdie and Grimace, but it also uses its meals as a revenue channel. That revenue channel is, itself, a marketplace for customer acquisition. 

Any strength overextended becomes a weakness. The sheer number of multi-brand activations that the golden arches have introduced in the past two years leads others in the industry to start to poke fun. And that’s what came last week when Kraft, unprompted, challenged McDonald’s to a collaboration with Kraft Mac & Cheese on a Big Mac, featured in launch of its new site wheresthemac.com

Is this brand bullying? Is this a clever build-up to a forthcoming calorie-fest? Or a jab at a brand who can’t otherwise find a way to innovate besides crossing the cool rubicon — crossing the tipping point where cool becomes cringe. 

— Phillip

P.S. Head over to the Infinite Shelf podcast this week to hear part 2 of Ingrid’s triumphal return with new co-host, Kiri Masters. In this two-part series, Ingrid opens up about her role as an operator and career brand builder, while dealing with the stresses of a miscarriage. It’s a powerful, and moving, listen for those looking to have deeper conversations in our space. Listen now.

The Bear Necessities? Build-A-Bear still makes the majority of its sales in mall locations, and while the company has diversified its locations, CEO Sharon Price John still sees malls as a big piece of the brand's strategy.

  • Our  Take: It’s not a terrible strategy while foot traffic is still higher than pre-pandemic levels at your local mall. But is it durable? The Build-a-Bear news comes following a report from SiteWorks in the Wall Street Journal (Business Insider non-paywalled link here) detailing the slow decay of the American Mall. Today, 700 malls are left standing in the United States, with nearly one-third left vacant. The report predicts that in ten years we will see just 150 malls remaining.

    For Build-a-Bear to succeed, it will need to naturally consolidate, launch more outparcel and standalone concepts, digitally innovate, and distribute through marketplaces. That’s it, that’s the playbook. 

(Min)averse. Meta’s Metaverse seems to be delivering less than promised. Technology has been glitchy and newly built-out spaces in the world are more or less abandoned, empty places. A few bright spots are the Zuckerberg avatar tech demo (Reuters link) that recently displayed the future of VR spaces and puppets that bear a striking resemblance to the real thing. Oculus also unveiled Meta Quest Pro, new professional VR headset, that has a less-than-impressive price ($1500) and even-less-impressive battery life (< 1.5 hours).

More Sights & Sounds. After being restricted on other social platforms, Kanye West is planning to buy Parler. Salesforce shares are up after Starboard Value takes a stake in the company. Despite a negative CPI print, stocks have been moving higher

Resole? Nike Refurbished, a program that refreshes gently-used merchandise for resale within Nike’s 60-day return window, may be a potential stepping stone toward Nike launching its own resale. Kicks You Wear newsletter author Mike Sykes analyses the factors that lead to this being a distinct possibility. The company first introduced its refurbished program in 2021 and has since expanded it to 42 stores as part of Nike's "Move to Zero" initiative, which is focused on reducing the company's carbon footprint.

Paranormal Peppers. Just in time for Spooky Season, Burger King has added a “ghost detector” to its app to go along with the new Ghost Pepper Whopper.

Breakfast Mashup. McDonald’s is testing out selling Krispy Kreme doughnuts at nine of their Kentucky locations. This could be the makings of road trip breakfast history.

Climate Action. Last month, the U.S. Senate quietly ratified the Kigali Amendment, which aims to phase out HFCs (hydrofluorocarbons). These chemicals, used in air conditioning and refrigeration, are up to thousands of times more powerful than carbon dioxide at retaining heat in our atmosphere. It’s ironic that what we invented to stay cool has become a contributor to what is making us so warm.

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