I was recently at the Sundance Film Festival and was totally intrigued that McDonalds had set up a cafe at one of the most premium venues at the festival. For 4 days, they served free coffee, tea and cookies from 10am to 4pm. You could even get oatmeal in the morning. The venue was at The Lift, which, while still a functioning ski lift, during the festival houses the Stella Artois Cafe (try and get a pass for that, not) and several gifting suites. At night it’s also home to the Tao Nightclub. And there was good old Mickey D’s.
They did a great job of the space, and must have spent a fair packet doing it. Although I recognize those furry grey pillows from Target, the signage was really nicely done, silkscreened on fabric giving it an upscale feel. They created a really fun, funky, warm vibe. There were two cosy sitting areas, one screened off with some drapes, cool wood paneled walls, and free wifi. Their theme of illustrations peppered most of the elements, and gave a fitting, artsy feel to the venue. All really, really nicely done. Have I mentioned that?
A couple of walls hosted outlined handprints of celebrities with their photos, for a “lend a hand to warm a heart” campaign. And I really appreciated that they were quite roughly done – gave it a very authentic, creative feel. I saw a couple of their staff getting paw prints from celebrities and it was a nice way of taking the campaign outside and then bringing it in. Effective, at Sundance, in the moment, yes.
But here’s the rub: in the end, I was still holding a cup of McDonalds in my hand. And for a diehard Starbucks drinker, no fancy cool Sundance cafe is going to change that. And I can’t imagine that the Hollywood crowd are going to drop their Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf either. So you’ve gotta ask. What did this do for McDonalds? I didn’t see hoards of press. And I subsequently haven’t seen any mainstream media coverage of it. So who was the Cafe for? The McDonalds executives who now feel pleased that they had a presence at Sundance? The ad agency who must be feeling quite happy that they persuaded their client to do this? It certainly wasn’t for their consumers, and it certainly didn’t do a strong enough job of capturing influencers. I made a comment to a girl in a lounge about it later that day, and she told me that she threw her cup away the minute she walked out of the door because she “didn’t want McDonalds coffee”.
And I hate to say it, but I think it makes McDonalds look silly. It makes it look like they’re pretending to be something that they’re not, and I think that’s bad for the brand image in the long run. Don’t pretend to be a premium brand if you’re not. And in any case, your true target market isn’t at Sundance. But if you’ve gotta do it, then stay true to your brand. Bring Ronald McDonald to Sundance and make it 70’s cheesy. Go back to the burger – god knows the 2am crowd could have done with that.