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McPlant: Did McDonald's Miss the Mark or Will This Meatless Moniker Whet Foodie Appetites?

By Jason Hall, Danny Vena, and Brian Feroldi - Dec 20, 2020 at 8:05AM

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McDonald's entrant into the meatless burger wars in the U.S. has a name that may -- or may not -- resonate with burger buyers.

Whether it's for environmental or health reasons, consumers have shown a lot of willingness to buy meatless meat, and the magic of food science has delivered some wonderful products. The market has also shifted from the supermarket to restaurants, and even the big fast food chains are stepping up their fake-meat game. McDonald's ( MCD 2.54% ) is the latest entrant, recently announcing its own veggie burger, which it has dubbed the "McPlant." 

Will that name resonate with alt-burger buyers, or is it a missed opportunity on top of a late entry into the burgerless burger business for the Golden Arches? On the Nov. 10 edition of "The Wrap" on Motley Fool Live, host Jason Hall and Motley Fool contributors Danny Vena and Brian Feroldi debated the terrible (or terribly memorable) name. 

Jason Hall: McDonalds has announced it is joining the meatless burger wars in the US. Has plans to bring a plant-based burger to test markets in 2021. It's calling it the McPlant. I just struggle to go any further than that.

Danny Vena: I tried to keep a straight face. I tried.

Jason Hall: I didn't bury the lead on how I feel about it very well there, did I? So here's what I want to ask you guys on, and Danny, I'm going to ask you to go first here. Did McDonalds marketing team miss the mark with this branding or will it resonate with customers?

Danny Vena: In my opinion -- and am frequently wrong, so let me say that -- but in my opinion, this is probably one of the lamest and least well thought out product names that I have ever heard. Honestly, did you really even give it a shot? We're you're thinking about it? Or did they just go, "Well, let's see. It's plant-based, let's call it the McPlant." Somebody in a corporate meeting said, "That's a great idea." Lies!

Jason Hall: They probably spent a lot of money to come up with this horrible, horrible name. Brian Feroldi.

Brian Feroldi: You guys like the name McRib? Pretty sure that product sells really well when it comes out. So I will defer to McDonald's management team here and say, you know your target customers way better than I do and I ain't your target customer. I'm guessing that you guys aren't either.

So McPlant, the only pushback that I would give them is a big thing with Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods, is they want to be in the meat section (in supermarkets.) They want to be next to meat. So specifically calling this thing the McPlant, doesn't do well with that messaging because you know you're eating a plant as opposed to a burger. I think they could've called the McBeyond and that would've done something for them.

But hey, they know marketing really well. And if this thing sells out like crazy and McPlant becomes part of our lexicon just like iPad did. Remember how much people mocked iPad when it first came out? Who knows? Maybe it's a brilliant move.

Jason Hall: Yeah. It's not going to happen.

Brian Feroldi: I could be wrong.

Jason Hall: Not going to happen. I buy plant-based meat substitutes every week. We eat them fairly regularly. I don't like the Beyond products. I like the Impossible products very, very much and I eat them at least once a week. This is just terrible.

The problem here, is somebody let the tail wag the dog and somebody prioritized getting "Mc" or some McDonalds-esque thing into the name and this is what they came up with. The Impossible Whopper is a great name and it works. It didn't prioritize sticking the fast food restaurant's brand first or making it too much the priority. I could talk about this for an hour and nobody wants to hear that.

This article represents the opinion of the writer, who may disagree with the “official” recommendation position of a Motley Fool premium advisory service. We’re motley! Questioning an investing thesis – even one of our own – helps us all think critically about investing and make decisions that help us become smarter, happier, and richer.

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