The Chicago-Based Marketing Agency that Helped McDonald’s Innovate Their In-Store Experience

There’s a lot to love about the innovative, sustainable features of the newly reopened, 19,000-square-foot McDonald’s on Clark and Ontario. We spoke with Chicago Ideas partner The Marketing Store about how they helped the iconic brand make it all happen, including what customers can expect from the new experience at McDonald’s and other retail outlets. Find out more about how they refined the customer experience and made the flagship a unique destination for fans of the brand.


The Marketing Store describes itself as a “think different, act different” agency. What does that mean to you, and how did that ideal contribute to your approach to the McDonald’s partnership?

 “Think Different” refers to a unique strategic approach grounded in altruism. We obsess about three things: the customer, the business, and the brand. We want the customer to be delighted with the food and their experience interacting with the restaurant. We want the business to flourish. We love this brand and we want to do our part to win the love and loyalty of the entire world on its behalf. But we don’t just obsess about these three entities singularly. I believe we find the solutions others miss by constantly analyzing the relationship between customer, business, and brand. We find the friction that exists for each, and strive to conceive solutions that replace those friction points with delight. We believe that if we take care of the customer, business, and brand then our partnership with McDonald’s will naturally flourish.

“Act Different” refers to our obsession with operational and executional excellence. We deliver. Period. Ideas are nothing without proper execution. We believe our ability to stand up and operationalize new platforms, programs, and practices is unparalleled. Our US Retail Experience practice was stood up in a matter of weeks, and operates with a degree of operational precision, strategic and creative excellence, and volume/throughout that we’re extremely proud of. 


What can customers expect from the new experience at McDonald’s? How has your team’s work transformed the experience from what we’ve seen in the past?

Customers can expect empowerment: they are now empowered to order in whatever manner best fits their lifestyle and preferences. They can still interact with friendly McDonald’s staff at the counter or drive-thru in the traditional manner. But they can also use the self-order kiosk to take their time and explore the menu more deliberately. Lastly, they can use the McDonald’s global mobile application on their own device to order in advance and skip the line.

Customers can also expect clean, beautiful consistency and food imagery that exudes the premium nature of this delicious food. We’ve worked hard to improve experiential cues, remove visual noise, and create a clean, elegant feel that reduces stress and feels inviting. 


What of this new retail experience at McDonald’s HQ makes you most proud or excited to share?

The unique menu boards in the MHQ restaurant are something we’re intensely proud of. They inspire us every time we visit. Their conception, design, and implementation couldn’t follow the normal US system designs, and had to be done in record time. We feel this effort proved once again that The Marketing Store always delivers, regardless of the challenge. 

Creatively, the MHQ restaurant is meant to be a unique destination for fans of the brand. The entire look of this special location had to be singularly iconic within the McDonald’s system. The boards had to create a feel that tells every customer immediately that they’re in a McDonald’s unlike any other. From a content perspective, we were challenged to incorporate the special non-US global menu items that are unique to MHQ in the US system. This had to be done without burying the core US menu items that customers know and love. The Global Menu offering rotates items in and out regularly, so this required an elevated level of dynamism and more flexible and judicious use of creative real estate. We’re also very proud of the dedicated McCafé board content. The placement and branding sets the McCafé brand apart with its own premium feel while giving much-needed breathing room for the food menus.


The Marketing Store is a team of experts in the future of the retail experience. What do you believe consumers should look forward to in the future as it pertains to the McDonald’s experience and retail in general?

* Consumers should look for environments that are: 

• More connected:  All elements of the consumer experience will become more seamlessly connected.

• More personal: Experiences will become increasingly tailored to the unique preferences of the individual.

• More empowered: New technology will enable customers to experience every aspect of the environment on their own terms.

• More frictionless: Interfaces will become faster and more intuitive, and stoppages and delays will continue to be rooted out of the experience.

• More inviting: As we continue to refine the experiential touchpoints and visual identity, the brand look and feel and the overall restaurant experience will continue to feel more premium, clean, and comfortable.


What’s next for The Marketing Store retail team?

We’re currently exploring the exciting possibilities afforded by certain emerging technologies that we believe will be game-changers in the world of retail experiences. We want to marry our existing strategic and creative approach with big data, machine learning, and artificial intelligence. Doing so in the way we’re envisioning could position us to become the best in the world getting the right experience in front of the right consumer on the right medium at the right time. That in turn would make us the best we can be at delighting customers while growing businesses and brands.  

Jennifer Boudinot is a freelance writer and entrepreneur focused on the changing workplace, disruptive business practices and cocktails—yes, cocktails. She's also a book editor and a best-selling ghostwriter.

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