The power of ‘Search’ - uncovering the secret sauce for McDonald’s

By looking deeper into search data for McDonald’s, we have unveiled some ingredients behind their success.
23 May 2024
The power of 'Search;' - uncovering the secret sauce of McDonald's
Daniel Skinner

Analytics Consultant

Renita Jude

Commercial Strategy Manager

“Google it!”. Search has become very accessible in this digital era, and we tend to immediately resort to Google for all our questions. You may have heard the saying, “your brand is what Google says about it”— from learning about a brand to purchasing it, looking for sales support or writing reviews, Google seems to exist in the entire customer journey.

With so much raw data available, there is an opportunity for brands to leverage search to uncover powerful insights grounded in consumer languages and motivations. In 2020, Kantar celebrated share of search as ‘the most important metric you’ve never heard of’, the natural successor to share of voice, and a good lead indicator of market share. Four years on, it is easy for us to look back and re-validate this statement, with even stronger evidence, by looking at brands that kept up with share of search consistently and, in turn, propelled their long-term brand value.

Spilling the secret sauce with McDonald’s

In a recent webinar, we investigated the ‘secret sauce’ that contributes to the success of McDonald's UK. From Kantar’s BrandZ database, we can see that brand value of McDonald's has grown more than six times globally since 2006. McDonald's UK have enjoyed similar success.

McDonald's Brand Value Growth, according to Kantar BrandZ

McDonald's brand value over time 2006-2023Source: Kantar BrandZ Global Top 100 2006-2023

Looking at search data for McDonald's, we can unveil some of the ingredients in the secret sauce that contributed to their success (spoiler alert: having a consumer-led strategy cuts through!). What we saw was how the brand consistently succeeded in building buzz and demand, pumping up their search volumes compared to key competitors through multiple tactics, including:

  • Seeking new routes to market: Searches exploded by 125% during the pandemic, thanks to McDelivery [Source: Search data, Increase from March 2020 to April 2020]
  • Enhancing experiences: This was followed by the Monopoly Campaign, driving 1.3 million searches alone in September 2021 and accounting for 32% of McDonald’s searches in the UK [Source: Search data, September 2021]
  • Offering innovative products: Back-to-back burger blockbusters with the McPlant and Chicken Big Mac saw McDonald’s solidify their status as the UK’s #1 fast food establishment, with 40% growth in 2022 [Source: Search data, January 2020 to April 2020]
  • Addressing evolving consumer needs: Adult Happy Meals and the 2022 special Autumn menu propelled the brand into 2023. Campaigns such as #RaiseYourArches—supplemented by promotional offers (including app exclusives) and a refreshed menu—translated into significantly higher searches for McDonald’s over its closest competitor [Source: Search data. Adult Happy Meals increase from December 2021 to December 2022. #RaiseYourArches increase from March 2023 to March 2024]

McDonald’s Search growth: 2020-2024

McDonalds search growth over time 2020-2024

Source: Kantar Digital Analytics. Lines highlighting UK 5 key QSR brands (McDonald’s, KFC, Dominos, Greggs, Burger King), covering 600 search terms + 762 million data points between March 2020 - March 2024. Circles showing search volumes in specific periods contributed by certain activations

Further deep dives show how McDonald’s marketing tactics evolved to address consumer needs over time, whilst remaining anchored to their core brand ethos. Placing marketing activation and share of search data on top of one another, we can see how search is a clear indicator of the effectiveness of McDonald’s product innovations, marketing communications and rich experiences that pave way for a successful, long-term brand growth. This rapidly available, powerful metric can also be used as a fast-moving indicator of advertising effectiveness.

"We are relentlessly curious about what happened in the market, what’s happening with our customers. What are the drivers of business?"

Fainareti Schortsaniti, Head of Consumer Insights at McDonald's

Digital conversations never cease; they could be your lens to the future

People are digitally expressing their thoughts all the time; brands just need to listen. You may have a brilliant product portfolio, strong brand assets, a stellar creative team, and a fabulous media team, but if they are not underpinned by your strategy and tactics to understand consumer needs, emotions, thoughts and feedback, your brand risks being just another option in a fiercely competitive landscape.

The benefits of tapping into search data for this are clear: a database of 8.5 billion searches a day across the globe could uncover hidden gems of insight, in consumers’ natural language. Questions like ‘how many times a week is it OK to eat fast food?’, for example, can be an opportunity for food and drink brands to tap into people’s guilty pleasures, while balancing the option for quicker and healthier recipes. Leveraging insight from searches about ‘shiitake mushroom crisps’, could guide you onto the next product innovation. Finally, as highlighted by the search insight for McDonald’s, the ability to have a granular understanding of the impact of marketing activations is one that shouldn’t be missed.

Talk to us at Kantar to learn how your brand can harness the ‘Power of Search’ to craft consumer-centric strategies that will help predispose your brand to more people, be more present at the right touchpoints and tap into new space to make your brand Meaningfully Different.