McDonald’s offers free food ‘for life’ through McGold Card contest

The marketing stunt is aimed at increasing buzz and downloads of its new mobile ordering app.

McDonald’s marketing team is attempting to turn rumor into reality.

On Friday, it announced it was giving away free McDonald’s for life to one lucky winner:

The campaign’s video, titled, “Free McDonald’s for Life: The Legend of the McGold Card,” alludes to the rumor that has circulated about special gold cards, which entitles the bearer to receive free McDonald’s from individual franchisees. An oft-told story says that Bill Gates owns the elusive gold card that gets him free food at any McDonald’s.

McDonald’s manager of culinary innovation, Mike Haracz, also tweeted out the video:

The contest ends on Aug. 24. Consumers can enter once a day by either placing an order through the McDonald’s Mobile Order & Pay app or emailing an entry.

Though the fast-food chain played up the gold card myth in its marketing video—the winner will receive a custom gold-plated phone case along with his or her food—McDonald’s isn’t giving out all the Big Macs and Happy Meals a person could eat.

Instead, the winner will receive up to two meals per week for 50 years, given as a $1,000 credit on the company’s app along with $35,400 in cash and $15,600 to offset winning-prize taxes. The winner can also cash out the $1,000 app credit.

The marketing move—which is a ploy to grab consumers’ attention while boosting downloads of its new ordering app, has been lauded as a smart decision by some reporters.

Inc’s Bill Murphy Jr. wrote:

This truly is a smart contest on the part of McDonald’s.

For one thing, it creates a mystique about the idea that other people have this secretive card entitling them to free food. A number of celebrities have claimed to have them, but it appears there may be only one true Gold Card that entitles the bearer to eat for free at McDonald’s anywhere in the world.

… [I]f you’re McDonald’s, and you manage to get, say, 250,000 people to download and try your app as a result of this promotion, that works out to about 21 cents per customer–which is a very healthy cost per app download in digital marketing.

However, not everyone thinks the contest is clever.

CNBC reported:

Though intended to generate attention, the promotion actually could be a marketing McCoup for the Golden Arches.

“This is going to cost them less than one corporate Christmas party,” said Rob Frankel, a Los Angeles-based branding strategy expert. “I don’t think it’s going to do anything to encourage the app usage. You have a much better chance of winning a state lottery than picking something like this up.”

McDonald’s marketing effort mirrors past contest by a huge food brand—which also brings mixed reactions.

USA Today reported:

The contest is similar to one run by coffee chain Starbucks, which was called Starbucks for Life, only not as generous.

For the coffee giant’s fourth annual sweepstakes, which ended in January, five U.S. winners won the grand prize, worth up to $56,575 each, entitling them to a free beverage or food item of their choice once a day for 30 years.

What do you think of the promotion, PR Daily readers?

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