Shop Talk

Retailers, consumers and prices

McDonald’s brews up anti-coffee snob ad blitz

September 19, 2008

four_drinks.jpgMcDonald’s, fancy coffee’s new kid on the block, appears to be stealing a page from the U.S. Presidential campaigns with an advertising blitz targeting the alleged coffee snobbery promoted by its upscale rival from Seattle.

McDonald’s restaurants in western Washington State — Starbucks’ home turf — have taken to the Internet with, a site that provides a menu of McDonald’s new McCafe coffee drinks as well as tips for how to intervene when someone you love is addicted to “snobby iced espresso.”

And the pitches don’t end there. McDonald’s is planning a comprehensive media blitz — think radio, buses and billboards — for McCafe, which will be rolled out to the majority of its 14,000 U.S. restaurants by the middle of next year.

This ad is running with the McCafe launch in San Diego County. As the roll-out continues, there is certainly a similar promotion coming to a TV near you.

Stay tuned.

(Photo and Video: McDonald’s)


McDonald’s: If you want to expand your share of the coffee business, please allow and encourage customers to use reusable cups, just like the coffee chains do.


I think McDonalds is on to something with this marketing but I think it will be short lived. I don’t think coffee drinkers who like coffee shops are snobs. Many people who enjoy going to a coffee shop will not want to share their space with kids. I’m not one of these people and I stopped drinking coffee. Coffee is not on my Real Food list of things that will keep me healthy and alive longer. But to each their own.


This campaign would have worked great 10 years ago, when Starbucks patrons really WERE snobs. Now the average Starbucks patron doesn’t view himself as in any way better than anyone else — they just like some coffee in the morning and Starbucks offers more convenience/more choice/fewer kids/shorter waits than McD’s. If there were a McD’s on my way to work where I could get cheap, good coffee and a newspaper, I’d go there. But there isn’t.

Maybe the point is to cash in on Middle America’s insecurities and us-vs.-them attitude so prevalent in the political campaigns. If that’s the case, it COULD work, but only in those states where folks probably already go to McD’s or Duncan Donuts for their coffee.

Posted by michael | Report as abusive

I like Starbucks because it is not like McDonalds. McDonalds stick to kids and french fries, Starbucks stick to a coffee place we adults can go to void of children, End of story! Simple solution!

Posted by Cathleen | Report as abusive

McDonalds has always had excellent coffee! Now it’s even better. Finally consumers are responding to this, realizing it for themselves and shunning the extraordinary “rip-off” experienced at Starbucks.

Posted by PM | Report as abusive

ER, do you really think that it is cheaper to use all that water and drying towels to wash a cup. A paper cup is recyclable. What a waste of energy and water (that is not captured and reused) even if the glass cup is rewashed. Hum……..snob…..what an ugly word.

Posted by SL Arnold | Report as abusive

Like subprime mortgages and credit default swaps, Starbucks is another symbol of unbridled American excess that will soon be history. As we return to a more sane way of living, I truly hope it will be considered “so yesterday” to order a “Venti wet percent cappucino”. Let’s get this nonsense out of our lingo. Bravo to McDonalds, and I hope the sizes will be Small, Medium, and Large!

Posted by Merrill Grinch | Report as abusive

Ummm. Unsobby coffee, my favorite. I hate when my coffee cries :-(

Posted by mados123 | Report as abusive

It sounds to me like McDonald’s wants to own the coffee market as well. Is greed snobby?

Posted by M. Conrad | Report as abusive

I can either give my hard earned money to a company that even gives full benefits to part-time employees or I can give my money to McFat Kids-R-Us.It’s a Mc no-brainer.

Posted by Eric Marshall | Report as abusive

“Coffee is not on my Real Food list of things that will keep me healthy and alive longer.”

Is any “food” worthy of being called Real Food at McDonalds? I mean really? Even the grilled chicken salad is toxic. Coffee on the other hand is very easy to get right. Even McCoffee is coffee.

Posted by David Sage | Report as abusive

Any food product that McDonald’s sells should be reclassified as synthetic-the chemists at MD’s would somehow pervert something as simple as coffee also. I do not patronize MD’s or any of the fast food giants because of the quality of their “product”.

Posted by R Ice | Report as abusive

First notice how Reuters only allows comments on frivolous issues like coffee. A further indication that the mass media is skillfully controlled.
I support McDonalds entry into the Coffee market. As for quality, that will be a primary factor upon which it must compete if it is to take market share away from Starbucks and others.
Starbucks market rests on the “compelling experience” marketing strategy that it helped pioneer. So the other factor would be the Mcdonalds environment.
It is going to be hard to convince local yuppie to sit next to a bunch of screaming kids eating happy meals while sipping on McLatte.
For McDonalds to succeed these issues must be addressed. For research they should study the customer dynamics for each restaurant and re engineer the restaurant according to the tastes of each stored target market. If there is an elementary school nearby then a big playground is more important than a reading room for Preston. If it is next to a university then the playground could be potentially sacrificed to develop more enclosed areas with less of a fast food look.
The overall challenge will be to keep the McDonalds image that has succeeded already and add value without trading off core values that created the brand equity in the first place.

Posted by atlgtto | Report as abusive

I believe McDonald’s market share of the coffee market is limited. I don’t see spending a lot of money on coffee with their label. I drink a lot of coffee but refuse to use Starbucks primarily because of their Anti-military stance and their refusal to support Veterans and military in general. They show me little in respect of cost versus quality of their coffee and feel they are overpriced. Good coffee comes in many packages but a Folgers or Maxwell House premium blend is sufficient to meet my needs. So in terms of McDonalds I will forgo going out of my way to purchase their product which I haven’t tried yet. I am not one to go for specialized coffees like lattes and frappes and those additions to coffee. I don’t even use cream. I like the taste of coffee and don’t choose to mask the superb flavor of low oil, good quality coffee. I believe most coffee vendors are overpriced and most of it is all fad and simply a way to impress and not fulfill the purpose of providing a good product at the best price. I will be fine without McDonalds, Starbucks or any other Fancy Coffee provider.

Posted by Lonnie Royal | Report as abusive

I am one of those who think part time employees should not be given full health insurance benefits. By definition “part time” is “part time”. Any benefit that is given to an employee raises the price of the coffee.
Here is what I suggest: List two prices for the same cup of coffee. One would be “full medical benefis” and the other would be “without full medical benefits”. Of course the second one would result in a lot lower price of coffee. Let the consumers choose which option they
choose. I think the customers, wanting to get the most value for their money, would choose the “without full medical benefits” choice. For those who would feel a twinge of guilt in such a situation and would want to pay a little towards the medical benefits, a lock box could be put where the customers could dump any amount of money they would choose to go towards the employees’ medical benefits. See. Isn’t capitalism great?

Posted by Richard S. | Report as abusive

McDonald’s finally cottoned on to the incredible profitability of espresso-based coffee drinks. It hopes to goose Starbucks by taking some of the sting out of the scam (lower prices).

But maybe, in addition to offering espresso drinks, McDonald’s needs to designate a seating area exclusively for the espresso crowd in its restaurants. Personally, I just stop by the drive-up.

Posted by Achshav | Report as abusive

why are comments enabled on inane stories like this and not on things that matter… Sort it out!

Posted by David | Report as abusive

DOWN with starbucks DOWN with mcd’s!!!!!!
i own a small coffee shop,its is for adults,mcdonalds is for anyone hoping to live a short life.everything is fine in moderation,but in this country people have fallen into the fads such as ‘my trucks bigger’ and ‘my coffee is in a paper cup’,and people have let corporate giants take over to the point were moderation is a word seldom used. we do not have health insurance,we do support other local buisnes and we recycle what we can…coffee grounds,re-usable sleeves and what not. ALL AT A LOW PRICE!!! starbucks once charged me almost 5 dollars for a 12 oz drink!! rediculous!! im glad that they are feeling the heat in this economy,they have raped and pilaged for long enough.

Posted by cam | Report as abusive

I find the advertisements to be insulting. Coffee is coffee, but the ads paint being intelligent and informed citizen as negative, and I find it highly distasteful.

Posted by alexis | Report as abusive

You guys are idiots. people who drink Starbucks and call ESPRESSO, EXPRESSO. are not snobs they are tools. Starbucks drinkers dont know jack about coffee. Starbucks is the non-snob place

Posted by jimbo | Report as abusive

Why not just have a full McCafe coffee shop like overseas.

Posted by John | Report as abusive

I think this is a great campaign and something that strikes right at the heart of what Starbucks has become.

Posted by Coffeeguy | Report as abusive

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