The BTS Meal and how McDonald’s is rebranding fast food

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The BTS Meal is a branded version of BTS’ go-to order: 10-piece Chicken McNuggets, medium fries, medium Coca-Cola, and Sweet Chili and Cajun dipping sauces, which are available in South Korean McDonald’s branches. Photo by JL JAVIER

As health concerns impact food sales worldwide, McDonald’s is changing the story around fast food by showing us who eats it — and how. On April 19th earlier this year, they announced their latest campaign: a meal launched in partnership with global superstars BTS.

“The collaboration was unveiled to us (McDonald’s Philippines) by McDonald’s US early this year but a lot of details were kept under wraps until a few weeks before the global announcement,” says Oliver Rabatan, assistant vice president for marketing and channels of McDonald’s Philippines. “We were so thrilled and excited, knowing just how huge the ARMY [the name of the BTS fandom] is in the Philippines. We knew that this was going to be a big deal, it being McDonald’s first global campaign.”

While this may be the first globally launched campaign, McDonald’s is not new to collaborating with musical artists. They’ve previously launched a branded meal with American rapper, Travis Scott. It was launched in September 2020, around the same time McDonald’s had posted their worst global sales in 15 years, as part of their Accelerating the Arches growth strategy, a play on the iconic “Golden Arches” often associated with their iconic “M.” McDonald's President and Chief Executive Officer Chris Kempczinski said, “Against an uncertain backdrop, we are committed to staying true to our values and our brand purpose to feed and foster communities. By investing for the future and leveraging competitive strengths within our Accelerating the Arches strategy in drive-thru, delivery, and our growing digital presence, we're confident we can continue to capture market share and drive long-term sustainable growth for all stakeholders.”

The Cactus Jack meal is composed of Scott’s go-to meal: a medium Sprite, a quarter-pounder, and fries with barbecue sauce, and sold for $6 (about ₱280). Alongside the meal, Scott launched a selection of merchandise centered around the collaboration, including T-shirts, hoodies and McNugget-shaped body pillows, raking in $20 million altogether (that’s ₱950 million).

Following Scott, Colombian singer J Balvin released his own meal on October 5th. The J Balvin meal included a Big Mac sandwich, fries with ketchup, and an Oreo McFlurry, and sold for $6.99 or around ₱300. Like Scott’s release, his collaboration also had a merchandise collection launched alongside the meal.

Both collaborations hit unexpected levels of success, and played a key role in allowing McDonald’s to bounce back from pandemic-related declines. The Cactus Jack meal, in particular, had caused some ingredients of the meal to be sold out in several locations. The BTS Meal, which will launch in the Philippines on June 18th, is expected to do even better.

The BTS meal was first launched in select countries, including South Korea, the United States, and Vietnam on May 27th (or May 26th in the U.S.). Much like the band members themselves, the launch caused a frenzy. Jakarta had been forced to close 32 locations because crowds of delivery riders gathering caused a COVID-19 concern. People have even taken to reselling the packaging on eBay — with the bundle selling for as much as $100 or ₱5700.

“With the Philippines being one of the countries with the biggest BTS fanbase, we are anticipating much excitement and support when we launch the BTS Meal on June 18,” says Rabatan. “For us in the Philippines, all 665 of our stores, whether company or franchised will offer the BTS Meal, across all our channels: dine-in, McDelivery (including third party food aggregators like Grabfood and FoodPanda), drive-thru, and take-out.”

The BTS Meal, like Scott’s and Balvin’s, is a branded version of BTS’ go-to order: 10-piece Chicken McNuggets, medium fries, medium Coca-Cola, and Sweet Chili and Cajun dipping sauces, which are available in South Korean McDonald’s branches.

The BTS meal includes 10-piece Chicken McNuggets, medium fries, medium Coca-Cola, and Sweet Chili and Cajun dipping sauces. Photo from MCDONALD'S PHILIPPINES

As the release date draws closer, McDonald’s Philippines has a full team working to ready themselves — and all participating branches — for the demand.

“Preparations at the restaurant level are on-going, anticipating the meal’s high demand especially during the first few weeks of launch,” assured Rabatan. “A big part of the preparation is to ensure that we will not compromise the quality and safety of our food, and the safety of our people through the strong reinforcement of our M Safe protocols — which has always been part of our operating culture. This includes practicing minimum health and safety protocols like wearing of face masks and shields, and maintaining social distancing especially in queuing; frequent sanitation of high touch customer areas, practice of contactless drive-thru and delivery, availability of cashless payment options, to make sure our employees and customers are safe when ordering the BTS Meal.”

The BTS meal, which is slated to be available until July according to McDonald’s Philippines, marks the beginning of a new type of marketing campaign centered around collaborations with widely known artists. By reintroducing already existing meals, McDonald’s has found a way to relaunch their products in a fresh way with minimal added costs.