Plan for Buzz: The McRib Complex

A new wave of quick service and casual dining restaurants are rethinking product marketing by planning for word of mouth.

This stems from “product innovation,” or as I will call it, “Absurd Culinary Genius.” A couple of years ago, we were introduced to the repulsive-looking but oh-so-tasty KFC Double Down. Then we heard about Denny’s Fried Cheese Melt. And now, I cannot help but think of the latest return of a cult favorite, McDonalds’ McRib.

Food products make headlines either because they are unusual, bloated with calories or- on a more positive note- play off of our love for edible extravagance.

The web began buzzing as the revival of the McRib was announced . But why? Why does something that generates off-the-charts buzz only get sold once every couple of years? We can answer this question in a number of ways. My hypotheses boils down to a few simple ideas that other fast food restaurants can leverage when releasing a new buzz-worthy product:

1.  Positioning

Time magazine compares the allure of this phenomenon as “same way that some people are attracted to bad boys (or girls) who won’t commit, the elusiveness of the McRib is part of its appeal.” Marketing is inherently in these types of products. For the Double Down, it was something so unhealthy-looking, but deep down inside, consumers CRAVED it.

2. Limited time only

The small window of time to buy products creates an instant rise in demand that- for a year-round product- would not exist. This man-made scarcity gives consumers the impression that they need to run out and grab one before it’s too late.


There were countless Facebook groups and Twitter hashtags demanding that McDonalds bring back this product. McDonalds listened, and they delivered.

Leveraging social media, capturing the buzz and responding to it are keys to success that McDonalds used in order to elevate the golden arches.