The Best Way to Introduce a New Hamburger in Japan

A new black and red storefront opens up in Shibuya, one of Tokyo’s trendiest neighborhoods, with no description beyond the words “Quarter Pounder” in front. Inside the menu offers only two items: the Quarter Pounder and the Quarter Pounder with Cheese.

In Japan, the “Quarter Pounder” doesn’t exist (portions in Japan are much smaller than in “SuperSizeMe” US). My Tokyo-born wife, who has lived here in the US over 16 years did not know that the Quarter Pounder was a McDonald’s brand name.

So, to Japanese, this mysterious store didn’t seem to be associated with McDonalds, the largest American fast food chain in Japan. Instead, Tokyo’s hyper – cell phone culture buzzed up this unusual store with only two menu items. It’s pretty easy for Japanese youth to target a shop enmasse when they are all texting each other looking for a place to meet and eat.

Long lines formed… then the word got it that it was McDonalds… here’s a comment from the Yahoo Japan article link above:

I ate there. It sure tasted like a Mac… and it was!

The revelation didn’t seem to disappoint the consumer (as it potentially might in the US as a devious marketing trick), because McDonalds Japan then announced they would be closing the experimental shop some time before the end of the year. Now the trendsetter Japanese mentality kicks in, and lines still continue to form so the in-crowd can say: “Sure, I ate there…” while it was there (it’s the same reason why a Japanese tourist visits a different country every trip abroad).

CONCLUSIONS:

  1. What a great way to introduce new products in Japan! Now, McDonalds can add the “Quarter Pounder” to the Japanese menu to great fanfare instead of explaining the heftier product to the Japanese (food quantity is not necessarily a selling point in Japan).
  2. What a great way to leverage the cell phone culture. One wonders whether the “mystery shop” strategy would work in other cities around the world.
  3. McDonalds Japan eventually got great mass media exposure from its initial buzz via a form of social media.
  4. McDonalds Japan’s stunt paid for itself. Lease a storefront, cook up burgers they way they usually do, get lots of paying customers, forego the television ad buys.

About Pat Kitano

Patrick Kitano works with brands in developing hyperlocal engagement solutions and is administrator of the Breaking News Network, a national hyperlocal network devoted to community service. He is the author of The Local Network on Street Fight, and is reachable via Twitter @pkitano and email pkitano@gmail.com.

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