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McDonald's Quarter Pounder Buzz Marketing in Tokyo

Posted by: Kenji Hall on November 19, 2008

quarter pounder shop.jpg
McDonald’s has sold its Quarter Pounder in the U.S. since the early 1970s. But until a few weeks ago there was only one place in Japan where you could get one: in Kumamoto prefecture, on the southern island of Kyushu. Former McDonald’s officials say the fast-food chain’s outlets in Japan lacked the proper grill to churn out the burgers in big quantities.

That’s about to change. Earlier this month, McDonald’s launched a clandestine campaign to promote the Quarter Pounder at two renovated shops in Tokyo’s hip Shibuya and Omotesando shopping areas. Instead of the familiar Golden Arches the sign outside read “Quarter Pounder”. Inside, the dark walls and dim lighting made the place seem more like a disco than a burger joint. And the menu had just two items: a double Quarter Pounder meal for $6 or a single for $5.

McDonald’s Japan kept quiet about the marketing stunt for weeks. (When I called with questions, they agreed to talk only if I honored an embargo.) On Nov. 19, the company confirmed that the two shops were part of a nationwide rollout for the burgers. But officials refused to talk about the strategy until an event slated for sometime next week. The promotion appears to have succeeded at luring curious passersby and generating buzz online: McDonald’s has forecast a 60% jump in November sales at the two stores, compared to last year, before the makeover. But McDonald’s isn’t hoping for a long-lasting boost. The Quarter Pounder shops will only be open through Nov. 27, and McDonald’s hasn’t said what its plans for them are after that.

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Reader Comments


November 19, 2008 10:40 PM

This is so weird, especially since I was just reading about McDonald's on Dr. Tantillo's marketing blog, where he praises McD for being so flexible and adapting to demand but prefaced this with: "The big things about McDonald’s cosmetic image (i.e., colors, designs, clown mascot) have never essentially changed. Neither has the basic serving and restaurant setup."
Guess they are even more flexible though... Tantillo's full post

Even though this is supposed to just be temporary/buzz marketing, I wonder if cultivating this sort of aesthetic wouldn't make sense for them--a move to diversify their holdings (they own a significant portion of Chipotle, or did last I knew) and expand/diversify their customer base (Ex. their 'unsnobby coffee' campaign. Tantillo did a post on
Starbucks/Dunkin' Donuts mentioning McDonald's coffee, too.


November 24, 2008 09:57 PM

i saw posters in shibuya stn for the last two weeks promoting quarter pounder. red/black lettering in hiragana/katakana but nothing that identified mcDs, not enven the URL on the would have been 'new' to anyone not familiar with the mcDs menu item.

Tokyo Gaijin

November 27, 2008 12:50 AM

I was walking around Omotesando this weekend and saw a bunch of people eating Quarter Pounders.

If the marketing department at McD's got one thing right, it's that Japanese people will wait in line for anything as long as other people are too.

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BusinessWeek’s team of Asia reporters brings you the latest insights on business, politics, technology and culture from some of the world’s biggest and fastest-growing economies. Eye on Asia’s bloggers include Asia regional editor Bruce Einhorn, Tokyo reporter Ian Rowley, Korea bureau chief Moon Ihlwan, Asia News Editor and China Bureau Chief. Dexter Roberts, and Hong Kong-based Asia correspondent Frederik Balfour.

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