Unbranded Ads… Will This Become a ‘Thing’?

McDonalds broke one of the golden rules of marketing when it launched its newest ad last week… They never mentioned their brand.

The new campaign features actress Mindy Kaling talking about, “That place where coke tastes so good,” yet it never identifies McDonalds as that place. Instead, it asks viewers to google the phrase in order to discover the mysterious location.

I googled the phase as the commercial requests, and discovered McDonalds has a page on their website to explain why coke taste better at McDonalds.  They say chilling the coca-cola syrup before it enters the soda fountain, requesting the syrup is delivered in stainless steal containers, and a wider straw, produce a better tasting coke (McDonalds.com, 2017).

This information seems believable but will people actually be compelled to google the phrase?

The theory behind the approach is that young audiences are consuming media on multiple screens at once (nytimes.com, 2017). Watching TV and simultaneously browsing the web on phones and tablets. Therefore, asking viewers to google a phase is not a big request, and helps with search engine optimization.

The ad seems to have created some buzz for both Coca-Cola and McDonalds. Do you think this a wise strategy? Could it work with other brands? Do you think McDonalds will start a new trend of unbranded ads with this campaign?


Maheshwari, S. (2017). A McDonald’s Ad That Never Mentions the Name McDonald’s. The New York Times. Retrieved from: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/04/17/business/media/mcdonalds-ads-mindy-kaling.html?ref=business

McDonalds (2017). The Burgers Companion, Coca-Cola. Retrieved from: http://mcdonalds-prod-sites-us.adobecqms.net/us/en/your_questions/our_food/why-does-the-coca-cola-taste-so-good-at-mcdonalds.html

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10 Responses to Unbranded Ads… Will This Become a ‘Thing’?

  1. pfistere says:

    I’ve never seen this before. The concept is very interesting. On the positive side, McDonald’s definitely stands out as a brand, as not many other brands are pursuing this type of advertising. They successfully incorporated Mindy Kaling as a celebrity endorsement, and the ad is fresh, relevant and attractive to young, digital audiences. However, I don’t necessarily think the ad spurs enough curiosity (at least for me) to google the brand. Perhaps if McDonald’s created more suspense in the ad, this would be more effective… prompting the consumer to feel they “must know” which brand is being discussed. What is McDonald’s trying to achieve here? To simply create more buzz? We all know McDonald’s sells Coca-Cola. The goal seems a bit unclear to me.

  2. sunniexyy says:

    I think this is a smart effort for McDonald’s to make. Instead of directly showing the brand, it requires the audience to find out the answer themselves, which can arouse curiosity and thus stimulate them to take actions, including searching and sharing with their friends on social media.
    Moreover, I notice that the background color is red and Mindy Kaling is dressed in a yellow dress. I do not know this is an intentional action or just a coincidence, but the colors subtly relate to the signature colors of McDonald’s logo and also this brand. Maybe McDonald’s is trying to use a subtle way.
    However, although this advertisement and social media are quite smart, McDonald’s needs to provide more benefits in order to attract the audience. It may be not strong or engaging enough for some customers to take action. For example, this brand can ask a series of questions that lead to the answer or share more interesting content on social media.

  3. delacall says:

    This is smart. With a more advertising savvy audience and more engaged generations on the net, advertising agencies have to take it to the other level. This is an example. By not mentioning the name, the ad is already interesting, fun, and most important it obligates the viewer to think and analyze the content, meaning, user engagement for free. I expect to view similar cases in the future.

  4. mengjunw says:

    When I saw the commercial, I feel interested and interesting, as a curious audience. I kept guessing the brand’s name as the commercial was going on. When I saw the red and yellow colors work together, I was pretty sure the brand is McDonald. After googled the phrase and got the final answer, I was cheerful and satisfied.

    Can you see how my emotion changed through the commercial? The experience of watching the commercial involves so many emotions. And the short clip had my full attention all time. At least, the commercial itself did very well in terms of SUCCESs.

    From my perspective, the commercial was a smart action for McDonald, as a giant and well-known brand with large user-base. The purpose of the campaigns is more about using creative ads to create buzz than promoting specific products or whatever. We all know that golden brands like McDonald and Coca-cola put lots emphasis on creativity. For them, the creative ads itself is a signal to show brand’s power. Also, I guess why the ads choose soda, not french fries or nuggets, is because soda always is the most profitable items. Other brands who are well-known and with very large user-base can apply the strategy in future.

  5. forbess says:

    The strategy was wise because it provided the right amount of ‘jabs’ to subtly convince McDonald’s audience why they should Google ‘that place where coke tastes SO good’ (i.e., the right hook of communication). Along with using an (in)direct tactic to use McDonald’s iconic colors, the way that they censored McDonald’s from the dialogue was done so naturally as if one was watching an episode of @Midnight on Comedy Central. But the ad’s tactic in using censorship was done so that made the audience think that, ‘They’re obviously talking about McDonald’s, right?’. And that little room of uncertainty provides just enough space for Mindy and the beverage technician to convince the audience to check for themselves. But if that right hook is not convincing for some people, at least the ad successfully plays shows Mindy being ‘Mindy’ while playing around with censorship.

  6. ruoqihao says:

    This blog kinda reminds me what we read in the book of Jab Jab Jab: the Right Hook, where the author repeatedly mentions that brands should put their logo in the social media posts. To certain point, I agree. However, the case regarding this McDonald commercial is different. And I like the idea McDonald put in the commercial. I noticed several points. First, color. Red and yellow are the theme color of the brand. To some extent, it reminds people brands with the similar theme color. Maybe McDonald, or USC :p Second, this commercial sparks people’s curiosity and they are more engaged with the audience. Third, media platform. The characteristics of different media determine the media content. Posts on social media need logo because people averagely spend less time on each post, whereas video commercial on TV or other platoforms may attract more attention and it allows audience to digest the content with more time.

  7. Ashley Jiang says:

    This is a very interesting idea, and looking at the buzz it has created, I think McDonald’s has succeeded to some extent. But I doubt if other brands could really follow suite because strong brand identity as McDonald’s is rare. Its red and yellow colors are so iconic that people can actually guess from the video what brand it’s talking about. And the beeps are genius, making the video fun to watch and make people curious. However, I don’t know why McDonald’s want to focus on coke this time. It has so many iconic products. It can really confuse people by blurring the characteristic of McDonald’s. Why not McNuggets, Big Mac, but just … coke?

  8. anamrodr says:

    I really liked this creative strategy for McDonalds as it sheds away from their usual commercials featuring their signature foods, and employs a stickier campaign that nevertheless stresses on the unexpected component. It also sets the brand a part from its fast food competitors by approaching a different kind of commercial that is also interactive.
    I also agree that unbranded marketing is a very risky strategy, and as some have mentioned in the previous comments, only a well-known brand such as McDonalds can be capable of overcoming such risk. The production design hinting at the iconic colors of the brand are what truly ring a bell at recognizing “that place” which is very well executed. I also praise the choice of Mindy Kailing as the brand ambassador for this TV spot. Those who follow Mindy know that she is often praising the fast food restaurant and gushing about it at interviews, so it is fitting for both parties.
    The only thing I don’t like as much is the cliffhanger question, as Ashley also points out, coke seems irrelevant. Or maybe it didn’t have to be, anything could have served as the breadcrumbs for the big reveal. But still, I would have chosen a more attractive subject, rather than a beverage you can get anywhere else.

  9. tojo says:

    I also think that this was an inventive and strategic move for McDonalds. It does create an interest as to what they are bleeping. But as stated above, unbranded marketing is super risky. Marketers have to assume that people will care enough to do their quick google search and, as the first class comment signifies, that might not happen. Personally, from watching it, I get the message of “drink coke” rather than a pull to research what the ad is actually selling, but I did find it enjoyable. Ultimately, I think the unbranded marketing efforts of McDonalds could have been executed better

  10. davidmer says:

    This advertising strategy is pretty interesting, and is definitely unique by omitting the name of the brand. The advertisement is effective at capturing the attention of the audience, and is unexpected by censoring the name of the McDonalds. The call to action to conduct a google search is also effective as it taps into the curiosity of the viewers to find out what brand is being advertised, which when searched for, viewers will actively discover that the commercial is for McDonalds. I think that it can work, but a concern is capturing the attention of enough people for enough time to make the campaign beneficial for the brand. It will be interesting to see if more brands attempt this approach in the future.