Popular fast food chain McDonald's is now targeting kids with the release of a mobile app for iOS and Android. The McPlay App is available for free from the App Stores, but many kids may find the app a bit... lame. Kids are prompted to toss a ball into a Happy Meal box to collect nutritious foods once the app opens. There's also an informational section for parents about the nutritional values of McDonald's foods, and not much else.
While I often find myself scratching my head at some of McDonald's marketing schemes (have you ever read the ad copy on cups, boxes, and bags?), this one truly takes the cake. How many kids do you know go to McDonald's to order milk, apples, and a salad? They want fries, burgers, chicken nuggets, and ice cream when they see the Golden Arches! The walnuts are covered in sugar, the yogurt is loaded with sugar, and the apple slices are coated in some mystery chemical that keeps them from turning brown for days. Health-conscious parents don't take their kids to McDonald's. Parents who need a place to let little balls of energy run inside on a dreary day, and those who figure a dose of grease, fat, and sugar every once and awhile won't kill them are the ones who frequent McDonald's.
At least the fast food giant is acknowledging the gorwing popularity of mobile apps, and the increasing marketing of apps targeting kids. Kids have their own smartphones or spend hours playing with mom and dad's phone today. Even toddlers are tech savvy enough to operate many popular kid's mobile apps. But with the message of the app centering on a "McDonald's is nutritious" message, you have to wonder if marketing reps ever really expected the app to perform well? Is McPlay just a token app to say they've joined the ranks of other fast food chains in developing a mobile app for consumers?
When developing a mobile app, businesses should take into consideration their target audience and what that audience needs and wants. McDonald's may want their customers to visit for healthy treats, but in reality they go for the good junk. They surely sell more fries and nuggets than apples and salads, and an iOS or Android app developer should have targeted these loyal french fry connoisseurs, not some imagined hopeful group of health nuts supporting McDonald's foods by feeding their kids Happy Meals twice a week.
If you want your business app to succeed with consumers, you have to understand marketing and meet a need in your target audience, even if that need is just to amuse them for a few minutes or provide valuable information in a handy format. Otherwise your iOS app won’t get downloaded, and even when it does, it’s likely to be sent to the trash soon after. Your mobile app idea must meet some need, small or large, in a large portion of your customers. If not, you’re wasting your time and money as well as your customers’ time and money.
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