McBike: Using Customer Insights to Target Millennials

We should have known that back in 1962 when McDonald’s incorporated the Golden Arches into their logo, the arches signified more than just an “M” for McDonald’s. Though the arches’ were never intended to represent a literal entryway, billions of people around the world have passed under the arches to be served. For decades, McDonald’s has served customers in their cars at the drive-thru. For the coming decades, will McDonald’s serve customers on their bicycle at the “bike-thru?” Visualize this…cars passing under one arch for the drive-thru and bicyclists passing under the other arch for the bike-thru.

The appeal of McDonald’s decades ago is much different than today because of evolving customer behavior. To entreat the customer, the menu, perception, exterior and interior design, and other aspects of a McDonald’s restaurant have all changed over the years because the customer has changed over the years. McDonald’s continues to seek reasons, or customer insights, for emerging behavioral changes and tactics to adapt. Aptly, McDonald’s customer insights drive tactical changes to the customer experience – and they are doing it yet again. With research indicating Generation Y doing more driving on two wheels, McDonald’s is gearing up to appeal to contemporary, health-conscious millennials. Introducing the McBike, McDonald’s innovative bike-friendly takeout bag made to hang from handlebars. Select stores are making it easier for cyclists to fuel up mid-ride with a Big Mac and fries.

According to McDonald’s video advertisement, the McBike bag carries a burger, fries, and a drink, while allowing a cyclist to keep two hands on the handlebars. The bag, constructed out of cardboard, comes together on the side to conveniently form a hook, which then can be hung on bike handlebars. McBike bags have been released for testing in Copenhagen, Denmark and Medellin, Colombia. Amsterdam, Tokyo, and other international cities with a high percentage of bike commuters are on path to offer McBike bags soon, while for now, everyone else is stuck driving home with their doggie bags.

With McDonald’s long reputation of high caloric offerings, it is a little peculiar to see McDonald’s encouragement of a healthier lifestyle. Under pressure from a millennial generation, with over $1.3 trillion in buying power, to provide healthier meals, McDonald’s has undergone menu changes, beginning to feature food options lower in fat, salt, or sugar content than their traditional burger-and-fries staple. Even with the addition of salads, fruits, and vegetables to the menu, flat sales across the United States and European markets have persisted. New offerings, new marketing tactics, and  the McBike bag are all efforts to compete for the contemporary, health-conscious millennials that have been wooed by healthier fast-casual restaurant chains that have yet to become a loyal segment of the Golden Arches. Panera Bread and Chipotle are two examples of fast-casual restaurants with increasing sales from the millennial segment. Both offer core menu offerings, yet have numerous interchangeable options to customize sides, toppings, and beverages. Both have established a healthier lifestyle through ingredients and new menu options. McDonald’s has yet to establish a healthier reputation, so McDonald’s is taking their customer experience one step further with the McBike bag. The contemporary, health-conscious, millennials are not only taking diet more seriously but exercise too. This segment of customers is biking more: to work, for exercise and health, as well as for recreation. In fact, for the first time in decades, 92% of European Union countries, excluding Cyprus and Malta who did not report new car registrants, showed all-purpose bicycle sales trumping automobile sales. Additionally, as more millennials enter the workforce in the United States, traveling to work by bicycle has seen the largest percentage increase than that of any other commuting mode per the 2012 Census. The combination of added nutritious menu offerings and the ability to bike for a Big Mac delivers the much needed perception of a healthier lifestyle at McDonald’s.

The key insight is millennials, cycling enthusiasts, and political leaders have generated synergy that will keep pushing the pedal forward with cycling popularity. McDonald’s is responding to the psychographic shifts of their target customer segment with their golden idea of the McBike bag. The more nutritious menu offerings and the McBike bag align with the story McDonald’s is now reading aloud…encouragement of a healthier lifestyle.

It is imperative that brands move closer to their customers, digging deep in consumer behavior to extract a core consumer insight, implement a correlating tactic, and finally integrate the insight and tactic into the brand’s story.

Maturity, adventure, and freedom no longer come in the form of four wheels and an open road. Millennials’ freedom stems from smartphones, the Internet, and traveling distances on two wheels or two feet through urban areas. McDonald’s hopes maturity, adventure, and freedom are experienced via two wheels, “biking-thru” their Golden Arches with the McBike bag.

The McBike bag, debuting in Denmark, carries a burger, fries, and drink.

The McBike bag, debuting in Denmark, carries a burger, fries, and drink.


  • Annette July 15, 2015 7:42 am

    Great article, well written….wondering why the McBike doesn’t hold a salad? 🙂 Now that I would consider trying.

  • Karen Ansevin July 15, 2015 12:17 pm

    That was a very interesting and informative article. It’s good to see that McDonald’s is on the right track when it comes to accommodating a more health conscious population.

  • Deanne Pike July 15, 2015 4:48 pm

    The article was very informative and extremely well written. The writer certainly did his homework before writing.

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