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CosMc Reaches For The Star

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CosMc Reaches For The Star

Here at Distinctive BAT, we laud McDonald’s for being the future thinkers of Distinctive Brand Assets with their golden arches, jingle and now the use of eyebrows to place consumers at the heart of their DBAs. But have they forgotten the rules of ruthlessness & consistency with their new sub-brand or are they intentionally drawing a divide between ‘food first’ outlets and ‘coffee first’ outlets?

Statista records the annual US coffee market revenue at $11bn for 2023 alone so it’s no surprise that McDonald’s would be eyeing up a more sizeable chunk of this market.

We know that consumers typically hold between 3 and 5 brands in their heads at any one time and, the underlying principles of mental availability state that if you’re able to be one of those brands at a time when the consumer is ‘in the market’ for a product within your category, you stand the best chance of winning sales.

With consumers typically viewing McDonald’s as a “fast food restaurant” above anything else, it may be that they’ve so far been unable to establish themselves as an option when a consumer is in the market for a coffee, thereby unable to fully leverage the physical availability of 13,541 coffee selling McDonald’s stores across the US.

This week (sat at my desk in the U.K. at least), we read of McDonald’s taking the bold step to open a chain of coffee outlets to “rival Starbucks”, named CosMc’s.

While the new sub-brand leans on “Mc’s” and half the golden arch, is this too subtle?

Have they underutilized their existing brand asset strengths (logo, golden arches, colours) with this new sub-brand or is this intentional to help consumers make the ‘coffee first’ associations that the masterbrand may have been unable to do thus far?

At Distinctive BAT, we research and test DBA performance on two core metrics, Asset Recognition (how well people recognise the asset) and Brand Attribution (how well people attribute that asset to the intended brand). We tested the performance of CosMc’s new branding (or what we could so far find) alongside McDonald’s and Starbucks among an audience of 300 U.S. consumers to understand how close (or not) the new CosMc brand is to McDonald’s. While we of course wouldn’t expect any attribution to CosMc’s at this stage amongst the masses, we would hope any sub-brand created would still feel like it’s from the masterbrand.

Now, firstly, a couple of important caveats…this is VERY early days for the sub-brand and there has been a lot of PR lately to land brand associations pretty top of mind but we’ll be sure to test again in the coming months to see how these scores trend.

As might have been expected, the use of the all new colour scheme, font, logo (nearly) and store design doesn’t help to translate existing McDonald’s salience to the sub-brand, with all CosMc’s assets tested featuring in the bottom left quadrant – few people say they’ve seen them before (unsurprising, however new brand assets or sub-brands should ideally still feel familiar) and even fewer have any idea which brand they relate to.

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That being said, the subtle use of the golden arch tilted on its side in the CosMc’s logo likely contributes to their greatest asset attribution score (37%), and obviously, this attribution right now is to the McDonald’s masterbrand and not “CosMc’s” which will come with time (and media dollars). We felt these scores were perhaps on the low side, and any sub-brand, especially from such a distinctive brand like McDonalds would be higher. This being said, we’re not privy to the brand architecture strategy being followed.

Source: CR8 Consultancy https://cr8consultancy.com/what-is-brand-architecture-its-examples/

It’s unsure yet if the CosMc’s naming is a nod to the array of characters that McDonald’s used throughout the 1980’s and 1990’s, more specifically the “six-armed Outer Space alien, who’s part vehicle, part creature”. If it is the intention to re-introduce this character, they’ve likely been reading our recent article on the power of brand characters as DBAs.

Distinctive Brand Asset type performance

Facial recognition is an innate part of the human condition, it’s how we express emotion, how we relate to one another and it’s also one of the many reasons we see character assets perform so well for the brands we work with in Distinctive Brand Asset research. Characters are malleable, generally ownable (particularly illustrated versions which typically have a much longer shelf life than celebrity ambassadors), they provide a consistent voice for the brands who choose to employ them, and they can be embedded across a wide array of touchpoints.

Again, leading the way in DBAs, CosMc’s may be the first of many McDonald’s characters to make a comeback for the brand. We’ll certainly be keeping an eye out for more and to see how well each of these.

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