CIM Marketer of the Year ; Randy Lai MCDONALD'S MENU OF burgers, shakes and fries has found favour with time-strapped Hongkongers since the first 'golden arches' outlet threw open its doors in Paterson Street, Causeway Bay, in 1975. Over the following three decades, the chain's network has grown to more than 200 outlets. While McDonald's US-style fast food offerings continue to draw in the customers, there are clear signs that many also appreciate Asian-inspired flavours. Rice, that staple of the Chinese diet, is in great demand. 'We realised we had to introduce more oriental and local flavours,' said Randy Lai, vice-president of marketing, McDonald's Restaurants (Hong Kong). 'We have developed a burger with rice patties, called the Fan-tastic.' Local customers do not need to have the word play on the Cantonese term for 'rice' pointed out to them. Company research indicated that customers regarded a complete meal as one that contained rice, protein and vegetables, presented with flavour and quality ingredients. 'We developed the rice burger to leverage our burger heritage and tap into our customer need for a complete meal that included rice,' Ms Lai said. 'Instead of bread, we use rice patties as the buns. The rice patties are made with only the freshest and highest quality ingredients. In between the rice patties is a choice of chicken or beef with vegetables. The rice burger is a complete meal, with carbohydrates, protein and vegetables, but done in a uniquely McDonald's way.' Focusing on the customer should be first on the agenda in any marketing campaign, she said. 'A marketing campaign should be based on customer insights,' Ms Lai said. 'We should listen to customers and identify their unsatisfied wants. That means selling them what they want, not what we want to sell them.' Second on the agenda should be giving the customer more than he or she had anticipated. 'As a marketer we should not only carry out our promotion, but also deliver beyond customer expectations,' Ms Lai said. 'Instead of just providing a functional experience to customers, we should also commit to turning our promotions into events and making them entertaining and exciting.' This demanded a clear idea of the message being delivered. 'You need single-minded positioning and an element of surprise,' she said. 'You should delight with innovation. Your creativity should be across the board, from product development and packaging to store decor, advertising, media placement and internal communications.' Ms Lai said the Fan-tastic case submitted for the competition demonstrated how both factors worked hand in hand in the success of the rice burger. The campaign objectives were straightforward: to drive sales and sustain business growth through menu variety. 'We wanted to build a closer connection with our customers by offering what they liked,' Ms Lai said. The result is an entirely new way of experiencing rice. 'The concept allows customers to enjoy rice any time, anywhere, without using chopsticks or a spoon.' Because the name of a product dominates the consumer experience, especially with a new product, much effort went into finding a name for the rice burger. 'First impressions define future perceptions,' Ms Lai said. 'Fan-tastic represents both the key ingredient and the eating experience itself. The name combines Chinese and English and reflects perfectly the concept of an Asian staple in western fast food form.' The name also captured the fun and contemporary spirit of the McDonald's brand while tapping into the local tendency to mix Chinese words with English. 'A fantastic product must have fantastic positioning,' Ms Lai said. 'We have developed a simple yet powerful platform with a new way of eating rice. McDonald's has made rice fantastic. The campaign speaks for itself.' As for the results, well, they were 'just fantastic', Ms Lai said. The impact of the new product was felt at every level, from sales to guest count to profits. 'After the 90-day launch, the Fan-tastic was the talk of the town. It had a more than 90 per cent awareness rate, the highest for any new product launch in our 30-year history in the city,' she said. 'We have sold more than 3 million Fan-tastics to date. The burger has also helped to enhance the McDonald's brand by offering more variety, more local flavours and coming closer to the hearts of the Hong Kong people.'