McDonald’s candles smell like beef: here’s why it’s brilliant

McDonald’s candles from the brand’s new “Quarter Pounder Fan Club.”

Golden Arches Unlimited

McDonald’s introduced a menu of new Quarter Pounder-themed merchandise earlier this week, including a locket full of burger photos and a pack of candles with scents including “100% Fresh Beef,” “Onion” “Ketchup” and “Pickles.”

This sort of physical product strategy can be a way of letting super-fan consumers become walking advertisements for brands that they love.

The new items were the subject of Twitter awe and disgust this week, but McDonald’s merchandise shop, “Golden Arches Unlimited” has been around for a few months. The restaurant chain introduced the shop in early December with adorably designed (and definitely not dollar-menu-priced) lounge sets, hoodies, umbrellas and more.

The new “Quarter Pounder Fan Club” collection has “extremely limited” quantities of fresh items, which as of Friday included “Couples Quarter Pounder Mittens” for $25, an “I’d Rather Be Eating a Quarter Pounder” sticker for $8, a “Quarter Pounder Fan Club” pin for $10, a fan club T-shirt for $25 and a calendar for $25. The locket was sold out, and the candle pack was listed as “coming soon.”

McDonald’s said that the quantities of each item are “very limited.” The candles will be available sometime within the next week, McDonald’s told CNBC. It will post more information on its Instagram page and website when they launch.

But why?

McDonald’s started selling the products after it sold out of branded merchandise at a company convention a couple of years ago, and after the restaurant chain unveiled a sharp new visual identity with agency Turner Duckworth, Ad Age earlier reported.

When McDonald’s first opened the store, McDonald’s senior VP of global marketing Colin Mitchell told Ad Age that consumers in the “Instagram generation” wanted to put their fandom on display, and that the merchandise gives people the ability to be brand ambassadors.

McDonald’s said it has been working with partners including Wieden + Kennedy, Bamko, The Marketing Store, Golin and OMD for the launch of the “Quarter Pounder Fan Club.”

Joshua White, SVP of Strategic Partnerships at Bamko, which makes promotional products and branded merchandise, said a “tactile” experience that connects consumers with brands can be powerful.

“The key, however, is doing it well. It’s not enough to just slap a logo on a product and call it a day,” he told CNBC. “You need to understand what the values of that brand are and figure out how to take an intangible concept, like a brand, and transform it into a physical object that captures the essence of that brand. … There’s an alchemy to expressing the essence of a brand in a physical object that captures the hearts and minds of that brand’s target demographic. When that’s done right, you get a magnificently powerful advertising tool that transforms customers into brand evangelists.”

He said the kind of impact a “living, breathing billboard” a company gets when people buy merchandise can be more powerful than what the firm might get from buying digital advertising.

“The quality of impressions that [a] brand advocate can create are infinitely more impactful than one more digital advertisement that will get lost in the signal noise,” he said.

White also said that his company tries to understand the emotional connection between a brand and its most loyal customers.

“The CMO’s we work with are extraordinarily thoughtful about how they want consumers to feel about their brands,” he said. “At the heart of what we do is creating an emotional attachment between brands and their audiences. That’s where we always start – what is the emotional outcome that we are driving towards and how do we create that connection between brands and consumers.”

The real test will be if people are as willing to buy the candles as they are to tweet about them.

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