Boomerang

4 11 2010

Like an adult child who has flown the coop, only to return to the coziness and security of the parental nest. Like a distant cousin who shows up unannounced periodically, expecting you to roll out the red carpet. Like the religion salesmen who ring your doorbell while you are trying to relax. They’re back.

And so is the McRib.

Go ahead and salivate. Be my guest and cut me off on the road to lunch. And if you dare, ponder that no one really knows what is in that BBQ-sauce-slathered slab (or is it patty?) of chewiness. You know. Kind of like the McNuggets and Filet O’Fish beside it on the menu.

But that has never stopped McDonald’s from reviving this bizarre sandwich, a test market item from the late-1970s that went national in 1981. It never performed well, and was in fact discontinued in 1985, only to be resuscitated in 1994 and periodically thereafter.

Turns out the McRib has some cult popularity, and a menu item on life support actually has some positive PR value. It’s not a whole lot different from The Eagles staging another farewell tour. You know they’ll be back.

And it is sheer marketing genius. The brains at McDonald’s carefully crafted two marketing messages in 2005…one to announce the death of the McRib, the other to launch a “Save The McRib” campaign. Talk about duplicity. Talking out of both sides of your mouth. Cheap talk that ignited the drying grasses of otherwise bored consumer minds.

Yeah, it took off. That’s the beauty of viral marketing. And like a cow that needs to be milked regularly, McDonald’t has returned with pail in hand.

While the Boneless Pig Farmers Association of America is no doubt happy to see its product once again making messes of hands, mouths and shirts, there is something far greater at play here. Pavlov is standing at the door again, ringing your bell. You had better hurry and get in line. Because no one knows how long he’ll be around, or when he will return.

Dr “For Whom The Bell Tolls” Gerlich

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