McDonald’s brings back Grimace for birthday party nostalgia

McDonald’s brings back Grimace for birthday party nostalgia

Dive Brief:

  • McDonald's on June 12 will launch a campaign focused on brand character Grimace's birthday, according to a press release and additional details shared with Marketing Dive. The effort is centered around a Grimace Birthday Meal that includes a limited-edition purple shake inspired by the mascot's color.

  • The push also includes an 8-bit video game on desktop and mobile, Grimace-inspired merchandise, a Snapchat AR experience, a phone number to text Grimace "directly" and a charity tie-up with Ronald McDonald House Charities (RMHC) via Instagram. 

  • Grimace's birthday parties through the years are featured in a new 30-second spot. The effort sees McDonald's tapping into nostalgia around memories of childhood birthdays at the fast food chain.

Dive Insight:

McDonald's is going all-in on a campaign around Grimace's birthday as a way to tap into consumer nostalgia around childhood birthday celebrations at the chain and its amusement locations called PlayPlaces. Nostalgia has been a key part of McDonald's recent marketing efforts — from its McRib Farewell Tour to its adult Happy Meals — as the brand looks to engage with consumers around positive memories during a period that is particularly fraught on several socioeconomic fronts.

"Our fans have amazing childhood memories of their birthdays at McDonald's... and Grimace's Birthday is all about paying homage to the amazing, fun moments we all share," said Tariq Hassan, chief marketing and customer experience officer at McDonald's USA, in a press release. "We're excited to put a modern spin on these memories to continue to drive McDonald's relevance with a new generation. Grimace is the perfect lovable icon to have McDonald's meet our fans at the intersection of nostalgia and culture."

The multifaceted campaign utilizes several tactics and digital channels that have been central to marketer efforts in recent years. In collaboration with Krool Toys, McDonald's will release a free-to-play video game, available on desktop and mobile, that lets players race around classic McDonald's birthday scenes as Grimace looks to find mascot characters like Birdie and Hamburglar. The brand will also release Grimace-inspired merch on its e-commerce site,

On mobile, Snapchat users will be able to use the platform's Scan technology to unlock a special AR experience when scanning the chain's Golden Arches. The brand will also promote a telephone number, referred to by the brand as Grimace's "personal phone number," for a text-based activation. As part of a purpose-driven effort, consumers can visit the chain's Instagram story on June 13 and 14 and share a birthday memory via the "add yours" sticker, with McDonald's donating $5 to RMHC (up to $200,000) for every picture shared.

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A new 30-second spot, narrated by Brian Cox and soundtracked by Mase's "Feel So Good," shows Grimace's birthday celebrations in years past, nodding to restaurant designs and consumer behaviors that have changed over the years.

The Grimace Birthday Meal includes fries, the choice of a Big Mac or 10-piece Chicken McNuggets and — in a first for the brand — a limited-edition purple shake.