Innovation & Design

Real Girls Eat French Fries


Can't speak for you, but when we girls think McDonalds (MCD) we imagine juicy tender cheeseburgers, salty golden crisp french fries, a creamy milkshake, and, ah yes -- finger lick'n McNuggets dunked into dipp'n sauce...whoa, we're getting hungry just writing this! MickeyD's is where we go for all our salty dipp'n sipp'n crav'n food and we love 'em for it. (How frequently we should be eating this way is a completely different subject.)

Now let's turn our attention to MickeyD's recent initiative to increase sales with its modern girl customers. They call it their "Fruit Buzz" and it claims to be just what a girl wants. Though that's not what any of the girls we know said. Here's what we heard. "What's a gourmet candied fruit nut salad doing at McDonalds? And who is this older blonde swimsuit model, and what does she have to do with my french fries? Thanks, but no thanks. If I want a salad, I'll go to a salad shop!"

Who told McDonalds to throw out everything that made them famous? From the girl-marketing standpoint this concept is a dud. McDonalds is sacrificing its unique identity and throwing out the very things we love about it to become something generic and forgettable. Our long-term relationship with this brand wasn't built on dried fruit and yogurt.

WHAT DO GIRLS WANT? Did McDonalds think we were going to look at this promo and say "Perfect, this is just what I was waiting for -- why, with this Fruit Buzz option I'll be skinny and bikini-ready in by spring!" Did they think a gourmet fruit plate could sit inconspicuously between our fries and cheeseburger? We appreciate the concern for our health, but this putting this product on the menu is as unnatural as putting gummy bears in a soy-protein health shake

So what does a girl want? What would be a successful natural new product? Below is fast food brainstorming done girlstyle. We rolled up our sleeves and took a look at girls and their food -- what drives them during ordering, how they diet, and the relevant differences between how boys and girls eat. Armed with these insights we hoped to get some ideas for McDonalds to work with that support the brand, not abandon it.

Girlstyle dieting is a sophisticated art form. Yes we care about our weight, but maybe not the way you think -- at least not when it comes to McDonalds. It's more subtle and complex than just throwing down a salad and calling it a day. When girls diet we still order what we crave but we also use strategy.

VIVE LE DIFFERENCE. For example a girl might think: I will only eat a handful of fries instead of scarfing down the whole box, this way I get my pleasure without feeling guilty. Or she might be even more sly. If she decides she wants a hamburger, she'll convince her boyfriend to buy one for himself, knowing she'll take a bite to satisfy her own craving. Convoluted? Yes, but this is the calculus real girls use to negotiate their food during a diet.

Boys are functional eaters. Girls are experiential. If you pay close attention you'll notice that there are significant differences in how they eat. Eating is much more of an event, an experience, for girls than it is for boys (and often this drives boys crazy!). Guys are functional. They grab, they swallow, and you wonder if they even chew. They will eat anything, anywhere, and they execute the task with great efficiency. For girls eating is about more than just the food.

We put more thought into what we want, where we want it, and how and with whom we want to eat it. We use all our senses. We notice and appreciate even the tiny details -- the environment, packaging, colors, shapes, the restaurant staff, the menus, the smells, even the names of the food. Eating out is more holistic for us.

GIRL GANGS. Girls pick, graze, nibble, discuss, trade, share, and taste-test. We love the hands-on activities of dipping, poking, picking, swapping, blending. Girls often stretch out the event with a heavy dose of talking and chillin'.

Sharing is caring -- girls are also social eaters. We rarely eat out alone. Even when our friends are not hungry we beg them to join us. When we go out to eat we travel in crews, from our best friends, to our entire social circle. We rarely stay on our own plate and frequently roam onto everyone else's, we offer food to our friends and ask for some of theirs.

This mixing and matching is half the fun. In the spirit of complete accuracy we must admit girls can also be very manipulative -- there are times when we don't want to feel like a pig so we enlist our friends in a food indulgence to quiet our guilt. Sometimes we want two items from the menu so we slyly suggest our friends order the other item, knowing we'll get some of that one too.

GIMME SOME. A little of this, and a little of that -- when it comes to making food selections, girls are particular and often indecisive, letting our moods influence what we eat. We get bored eating too much of the same thing, we need variety. We seek taste sensations. There is an urge that needs satisfying that reaches far beyond hunger. We get specific cravings, sour, salt, sweet, creamy, which quickly switch even halfway through our entrée.

Girls like little foods, tiny samples, and little flavor tests. We like a little taste of everything. This lets us still eat in moderation and take care of our health while getting in as many different flavors/textures/food experiences as possible. Satisfying this desire for textural, gastronomical splendor is so challenging, that even after we order we still check out everyone else's plate.

We could go on, but by now you get the gist. If only McDonalds did! We'd like products like

McChick Mix -- a mini-buffet happy meal to be served in a reusable box with fashion and style. The food selections would be designed to satisfy our multiple cravings -- a little creamy, a little salty, a little tart, a little sweet -- all wrapped beautifully so that it's fun to hold.

PURE MCDONALDS. Being healthier or adding product extensions are good things -- just don't throw away your brand's soul when you do it. New products that succeed in the girl market are authentic and are inspired from a deep understanding of the girl habits relevant to the brand.

Products fail when they forsake originality and give in to the latest political agenda. McDonalds is known for satisfying our cravings -- so lets keep it that way! Now that we are all clear on that -- what do you say we go split some fries?


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