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Dayton Business Journal...
UD researchers unlock secret of McRib marketing
by Ginger Christ, Reporter
Monday, February 6, 2012 

Editor: Who woulda thunk it? 

The appearance of McDonald’s Corp.’s McRib sandwiches aren’t as predictable as the annual arrival of the Shamrock Shake. But, University of Dayton marketing experts think they have unlocked the secret to the popular pork sandwich’s releases that have helped drive its cult following. 

“We see a noticeable trend that leads us to believe that McDonald’s uses the McRib to exert its dominance in the market when one of its competitors starts offering a pork-based sandwich,” wrote Serdar Durmusoglu, assistant marketing professor, and Matthew Larrick, a University of Dayton MBA graduate, in a recent report. 

The researchers compared McRib releases from 1982 through 2011 to the launch of new products by McDonald’s competitors such as Au Bon Pain, KFC, White Castle, Burger King and Quiznos and found the burger chain’s releases of the sandwich coincided with competitors’ introductions of pork-based menu items. 

The McRib, a pork patty covered in barbecue sauce, debuted nationwide in 1982, but was pulled off the market the same year. 

“Most at this point, would consider the McRib another failed new product: A product was launched and demand was mediocre, so the product was discontinued,” Durmusoglu said. 

Seven years later, the sandwich was reintroduced in a handful of markets and again pulled off the market within four to eight weeks, a trend the company continued into 2011, according to the researchers. 

And, with each new release of the McRib, McDonald’s plays up the history and limited availability of the product to increase demand. For example, in 2005, 2006 and 2007, the company held “McRib Farewell Tour” promotions. In 2010 and 2011, the company highlighted the history of the product with its “Legend of the McRib” and Facebook-based “The Quest for the Golden McRib” promotions. 

Durmusoglu and Larrick contacted McDonald’s representatives, who denied McRib launches were designed to suppress the competition. 

The McRib has developed a cult following, and there is even a locator Web site being set up where people can report a McRib sighting. 

For full report from UD researchers, along with other articles from the Dayton Business Journal, click here.

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