Every two years, McDonald’s restaurant owner/operators, suppliers and corporate personnel gather in Orlando for a Worldwide Convention, an important opportunity to share corporate brand messages, best practices, technology and perhaps sample a burger or two. But this year, a personalization strategy transformed the bi-annual confab from a “one size fits all” to a “one size fits me” engagement that delivered the most relevant content and experience to each attendee. The strategy was threaded throughout the four days as part of a holistic approach that spanned the convention’s global sessions, talks that took place in the engagement center, the exhibit floor, and a suite of engagement tools and apps for customizing content and the experience.
“McDonald’s culture, our customers, our owner/operators and our markets are very diverse,” says Lisa Fingerhut, strategic engagement lead-creative and event solutions at McDonald’s. “Our objectives for engagement overall were to create awareness, deliver a personalized experience and to extend the value of the convention. Personalization helped us speak to and leverage that diversity so that we could come together in a group of 15,000 from 109 countries and have an experience that was right for each attendee versus everyone having the same experience.”
That personalization strategy was especially pertinent after McDonald’s last year reorganized its global business into four segments—Lead Markets, High Growth Markets, Foundation Markets and the U.S.—each with its own needs, challenges and opportunities for growth. “Within those markets, everyone is at a different place in their process and development, their advancement and their technology, so that called for some personalization because not everybody is coming to the convention and looking at it from the same perspective,” Fingerhut says.
Personalization is also part of a corporate strategy that is focused on the customer. “We want our owner/operators to be engaged in the brand, to be invested in the brand, to enhance their restaurants, to upgrade and do everything they can so they are providing the best experience possible for the customer. We want McDonald’s to be your favorite place to be,” she says.
Here’s a look at the components that Fingerhut, working with teams across the McDonald’s organization, whipped together to create a successful personalization strategy.
Taking a cue from some of the most engaging theater presentations, this year’s global sessions took place in the round, a format that provided 60 percent more front row seats than a traditional set-up and allowed for audience interaction. “This was a very different way for our leadership and the folks on stage to present, but it brought the audience closer to the presenter and the presenter closer to the audience,” Fingerhut says. What’s more, the format led to 11 interactions in which the presenter left the stage to get more up close and personal with the audience.
Each of the four global sessions carried a theme that continued throughout the day to a 750-square-foot exhibit floor and micro sessions, called “Fred Talks” (a play on the popular TED Talks named for one of McDonald’s co-founders, Fred Turner), in the engagement center. “Attendees could take a deeper dive into some of the topics, such as sustainability or digital initiatives in the restaurants, if they wanted to,” Fingerhut says. “They could also tag that content on the mobile app, or depending on their preferences, it would come up on the app as tagged ‘for you.’”
The Exhibit Floor
Most trade shows are a sea of booths that can overwhelm the senses, and McDonald’s, with 12 corporate and 203 supplier exhibits, could be equally daunting. However, a customization tool and the exhibit floor design itself helped prepare the owner/operators for their visit and personalize the experience. “This tool was extremely helpful for attendees because they would arrive literally from all corners of the earth, and that’s not the time to start planning. It’s too overwhelming,” Fingerhut says.
Prior to the convention, each of McDonald’s global regions received a digital questionnaire as part of 14 targeted pre-event email communications. In turn, the 46 markets and regions that responded, including 20 out of the 22 U.S. regions, received a customized report and a personalized map of the 25 corporate exhibits on the show floor. Preferences generated by the tool also went to an attendee-only mobile app, which prompted attendees to visit the areas most appropriate for them. Those attendees logging into the app for the first time answered the same on-boarding questions that informed the content appropriate for them. “It was a new level of digital customization,” Fingerhut says.
But the exhibit floor took personalization a step further. Each of the corporate exhibits, dedicated to areas such as Good Food, Food Preparation, Service Operation, People, Technology and Digital, Customer and Brand, was divided into two segments, Foundation and Future, in keeping with the global reorganization theme. Those owner/operators focused on the basics of restaurant operations visited the foundation part of the exhibits. More advanced Lead Market owner/operators from France, Germany, the U.K. or Australia honed in on the future part.
Finally, what would a visit to McDonald’s exhibit floor be without a burger and fries? In addition to four fully functioning McDonald’s restaurants, the exhibit floor featured an Experience of the Future restaurant that offered a tasty take on personalization. Attendees could step up to the self-service kiosks like those already in several of the key market restaurants to build their own cooked-to-order premium burgers with fresh ingredients. And a number of them did—16,455 custom burgers were served over the convention’s four days. “So it was not just the experience of the exhibit floor and the content that was personalized, but even the food,” says Fingerhut.
Besides the customization tool, personalized map and the attendee-only mobile app, attendees and non-attendees alike could tap into McDonald’s mobile responsive website, which offered 131 days of live pre-event engagement so users could start personalizing content. Users who logged on for the first time answered six on-boarding questions in order to receive personalized, relevant content, which was tagged “For You.” The website stayed live through July, two months after the convention wrapped up.
The digital tools were a big win. The app received 11,412 unique visitors, each with unique preferences, recommended content and an agenda. The responsive website tapped 43,300 unique visitors and achieved 324,586 page views, with an average session duration of five minutes 12 seconds. The 14 targeted emails garnered a 58 percent engagement rate.
Because of its diverse audience, global sessions and Fred Talks are typically translated into seven languages. Tours in specific languages are available by request, but this year, in keeping with the personalization strategy, the conference offered interpretation on demand. Attendees also could call a phone number on the app to get an interpreter on the phone or have one arrive in person.
This year was McDonald’s second stab at on-demand content with every global session and Fred Talk available online and delivering relevant content to audiences near and far. Thanks to targeted email marketing, which began in March, on-demand views of the global sessions saw a 30 percent increase in viewers over the previous attempt in 2014.
“One of our goals was to extend the value of the convention beyond Orlando, and the 15,000 attendees. Content is something we obviously want to be able to share and get the most value from beyond those four days and beyond the live audience,” Fingerhut says. “We’re almost cheating ourselves and cheating the system by not sharing it.”
So, besides serving up those tasty premium burgers now on the menu, the value of the convention really is about delivering content and experiences most relevant to its owner/operators.
Along with a side of fries.