McDonald’s Aims for International Star Power

By Matthew McCarthy
Marketing Writer

As an extension of influencer marketing, McDonald’s celebrity meals are attempting to make another big statement with the upcoming BTS inspired meal. (Photo courtesy of Alia W. on Unsplash)

On May 26th McDonald’s is releasing their latest celebrity meal, and this time they are teaming up with international pop sensation BTS. The Korean Pop group has been climbing all sorts of charts all over the world and has teamed up with the Golden Arches to share their usual order. The fast-food giant has been reviving the trend of celebrity meals since last September. The Travis Scott meal debut on McDonald’s menus on September 8th, and quickly became a smash hit. The relatively simple meal soon became a viral trend with so many people ordering it that some restaurants ran out of the necessary ingredients. The upcoming BTS meal is just as simple as Travis Scott’s customized Quarter Pounder, fries, and a Sprite, however there is a bit of a twist. The meal is a ten-piece chicken McNuggets, a medium fry, a medium drink, and two new dipping sauces. A sweet chili and a Cajun sauce, both inspired by recipes used at McDonald’s locations in South Korea. This differentiates this meal from past promotions in two major ways; the first is the introduction of new flavors to other countries, and the second is that this will be the first with a major international release. So, this begs the question, who are BTS, and why do they merit such a unique meal?

As previously mentioned, the seven-singer group known as BTS comes from South Korea and has become immensely popular around the world with a highly dedicated fan base. Their fan base, Adorable Representative M.C. for Youth, known as ARMY amounts to 40 million subscribers on YouTube and over 30 million on various social media accounts run by band members. They have successfully brought Korean Pop or K-Pop into the mainstream music of the United States and many other parts of the world. Currently, their album Map of the Soul: 7 sits atop the most popular albums in the world, only relinquishing its throne to BTS’s own Be album. Impressively, the band still holds second place. Needless to say, if McDonald’s was looking for a celebrity meal to surpass Travis Scott’s order, they certainly got a band with the popularity to do so. So, what is the marketing strategy behind the celebrity meals, and does it help the celebrities in their own marketing?

First off, the celebrity meals are not something that were created in this new COVID-19 world. Michael Jordan and Larry Bird had their own meals on the menus of McDonald’s around Chicago and Boston, respectively. Through the 80’s and into the 90’s, different corporate fast-food chains looked to celebrities for endorsements. There are several reasons that could be the main contributors in McDonald’s decision to bring celebrities like BTS into their marketing campaigns. Love it or hate it business giants have been trying to humanize themselves and relate to their consumer base for some time. Bringing in influencers and popular celebrities is a great way for these companies to feel more approachable. For the stars themselves, advertising their enjoyment of something as affordable and universal as McDonald’s does the same for these famous individuals that many see as something higher than human. Selling their favorite meals tells their fans that these celebrities are just like the rest of us. The marketing strategies at play are not atypical for the current world but are being strategically re-implemented. In late May, BTS is releasing a new English language single just days before their meal debuts so it will be interesting to see how well the song and the meal are received.


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