What small businesses can learn from McDonald’s at Valentine’s Day

Marketing and brand

12 February 2018

Fast food outlets like McDonald's and Greggs are taking on posh restaurants this Valentine's Day, with matching publicity stunts that have already gained the fast-food favourites extra column inches.

So what lessons can small businesses learn from these big brands in terms of marketing this Valentine’s Day?

What's the deal?

McDonald's in Newcastle announced their three-course "McValentine's" menu on Facebook. Highlights of the £20 meal include a starter of four chicken nuggets followed by a choice of their iconic burgers such as the Big Mac and Filet-o-Fish. They've also launched a competition for three lucky couples to win a free meal – one for each of the three sittings. Not to be outdone, British chain Greggs teamed up with booking agent OpenTable to offer a £15 four-course meal deal in five British cities. The bakery's offer includes a bottle of prosecco to sip with your sausage roll, and doughnuts for dessert.

Why it's clever

Holidays like Valentine's Day can be some of the most lucrative days of the year for the hospitality trade. While mid-range and high-end restaurants battle it out to attract love-struck couples, it's difficult for take-away chains like McDonald's and Greggs to compete as they're seen as unromantic options. The romantic meal campaigns work because they subvert people's expectations. By poking fun at themselves (and posh establishments too) the restaurants are able to take a slice of the custom from couples who want to do something different.

What small businesses can learn

While Valentine's Day footfall comes easy to certain small businesses, such as hair salons and florists, it's more difficult for a hardware store or butcher to put a romantic spin on their products. Taking a leaf out of McDonald's and Greggs' books can help you to draw attention to your business. Both of the meal campaigns build on a foundation of humour and out-of-the-box thinking, with a hearty dose of self awareness. Be bold and playful, and don't be afraid to try something new in your marketing.

The Greggs and McDonald's campaigns show that, even if your small business isn't traditionally associated with love or romance, you can still capitalise on Valentine's Day.