McDonald’s is betting that millennials are looking for something more than a burger and a side of fries. That’s why the fast food chain is setting up camp at the famous SXSW music and tech festival this week to try to curry favor with the younger crowd.
SXSW is widely seen as a great place to launch startups, and increasingly to attract attention for larger brands. To fit in at the hip conference, McDonald’s is trying out some new strategies, which they’re hoping will resonate well with this audience. Their tactics include:
Private cocktail party
While these may be largely surface-level offerings, McDonald’s is also looking to this crowd for deeper insight and innovation. As this CNBC article put it:
“McDonald's is trying to communicate that it's interested in more than just upgrading its image. It's looking for new ideas to change the way it does business.”
To accomplish that, the company also held pitch competitions, looking for entries in three categories: "Reinventing the Restaurant Experience," "Advancing Content Creation," and "Mobilizing Transportation and Delivery." The winners will get to travel to the McDonald’s headquarters to pitch their ideas to the executive team, demonstrating that the move isn’t purely for show.
And to target entrepreneurs, McDonald’s is also hosting panels with titles like these: "Leveraging the Gray Area Between Digital and Physical," "Wire-free and Worry-Free: The Time for Wireless Charging is Now," and "How Your Scale and Reach Can Change the World."
The company’s efforts at SXSW come at an interesting moment for McDonald’s, which has also made headlines this week for reportedly unsafe working conditions at some of its stores. The beleaguered chain has its work cut out trying to turn around negative perceptions and convince the public—especially millennials—that they’re worthy of attention in a very crowded marketplace.