What McDonald’s sees when it looks at gamers – Crain’s Chicago Business

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When McDonald’s participates in a “Friendsgaming” event with esports organization Faze Clan this weekend, it hopes to be reintroduced to an audience it may have last seen ordering Happy Meals and climbing through plastic tubes in the Playplace. These same consumers still crave McDonald’s food and remain anxious to gather and play—only the menu and venue have evolved. “Friendsgaming,” which begins Saturday with a live Twitch stream on FaZe Swagg’s channel, includes the sale of custom gaming gear and a DoorDash delivery code allowing gamers to fuel up on McDonald’s food for the event.

Elizabeth Campbell, senior director of marketing and cultural engagement at McDonald’s, in a recent interview discussed how the burger giant is meeting its audience “where they are,” and the value of a media partnership with the influential and culturally diverse gaming group Faze Clan. The following has been edited for clarity. 

How does McDonald’s approach gaming from a big-picture perspective?

What we want is an opportunity to engage with consumers, and meet them where they are. What that means is, as we look at gaming holistically, we are looking to see how we can tap into consumers and be associated with McDonald’s in a way that’s unique for them.

We looked at in terms of how do we combine our food—that gamers have told us they want to eat—while partnering with one of the biggest media vendors in Faze Clan.

But we’re not looking to do a logo, or a sponsor badge. We really want to be integrated with them and get to know who their gamers are, understand what they are about, and also, make sure it’s authentic, the way we are engaging with consumers today, and in the long term. We see Faze Clan being a diversely owned media company, and the gamers represent the communities in which they operate. That’s critical for us because it matches what McDonald’s’ values are and what we’re looking to engage.

How big a group are you tapping into here?

It’s something over 31 million users. What we’re looking to tap into is not just the consumers who are gaming, but the kids who are saying ‘I want to be a gamer.’ Or ‘I want to develop the next gaming platform.’ Associated with this as well is inspiring kids and the minds of the future generation to build the next innovations.

In addition, we want to look at the diversity of it, in terms of who they are appealing to, because they are demonstrating how the world is changing today. Their customer base matches McDonald’s.

Did you call Faze Clan, or did they call you?

It was a mutual conversation. We announced an investment earlier this year in diverse media companies, but even before that we were having conversations with Faze Clan because they were a part of a media summit our media team does. We were exploring how to look at gaming, and how do we look at what’s the new community builder. That’s how we got introduced and curated a relationship with them.

Tell us more about what you envision for Friendsgaming.

It is a critical time of year where people are coming home to visit with their families. You have downtime and you take a break. For a lot of people, that means doing what you love, your passion. So for people who like gaming, this will be high season for them to participate.

The way we’re looking at is, combining that with being able to provide them with the food that they like will earn us high engagement from those customers. We are trying to engage consumers where they are. This consumer is already gaming, so it’s not like we are creating a false environment for them or anything of that nature. This is where they are. This community was at McDonald’s when they came to our Playplace. Now they’ve evolved and they’re gathering, but still having a good time playing together, and that’s where we want to meet them.

What can other marketers learn from what McDonald’s is doing?

I would say first of all, it’s about listening to your fans. We start all of our work with an understanding of what our fans want, and what truths are associated with that. And what we learned from them was that it’s better to have McDonald’s food when you’re having a gaming experience. And it’s better to have delivered to you. So that’s why we’re partnering with DoorDash.

The other thing marketers can learn is how not to be intrusive. We’re trying to meet the gamers where they are. You also need to look at who you are partnering with. Faze Clan is a good partner for us because they are a diversity-owned media company, and also, they are actual gamers that love McDonald’s food.

When we introduced the relationship earlier this year, we filmed at one of our restaurants in L.A., and it was amazing to see how excited they got about being in the restaurant, and the way they wanted to bling out the restaurant showed the passion they had for the brand.

Jon Springer is a senior reporter for Crain’s sister publication Ad Age.