Pink Straw

A great reminder of marketing wisdom from the marketing master, McDonalds:  Change the norm in a relevant way.

Our local McDonalds recently unveiled their newest product—Raspberry Iced Tea.  In the promotions, they used all the standard tools for the industry: mass advertising, drive-by advertising, and various in-store marketing efforts.  However, I want to focus on just one – the humble straw.

I pulled through the drive-thru (hey, don’t judge), paid, got my food, pulled away doing the traditional “get all this situated” maneuvers.  As the drink cup was almost to my lips, I noticed the straw; it was pink.

That was the first time I noticed, but I distinctly noticed.  Not a passing, “that’s interesting” notice, but in a way that made me think, “Why?”

Marketing Reminder

Note: I didn’t notice on my first opportunity.  I was handed the straw separately, I pulled the straw out of the wrapper (which is also different), and put the straw into the cup—all without noticing it was pink.   It wasn’t until I HAD to (subconsciously) think about the straw specifically to make sure I don’t spill my drink that I noticed.

McDonalds understands that no space is too small, they understand that their clientele is the full spectrum of society, each with their own triggers.  For me, it seems it was the straw.

So, the take-aways from this close encounter of the straw kind:

  • Capitalize upon business basics:  McDonalds has to provide straws anyway, AND they are in the hands of their best prospects, their current customers.  What can you use every day that you can adapt to promote your campaign?
  • Use it sparingly:  If the straw changed colors every week, or even month, I believe it would lose its import for most of the population.   So, make sure you rotate what you use.
  • It was meaningful:  What do you use a straw for?  To drink with, of course.  What were they marketing?  A new drink.
  • Stay within your theme:  McDonalds didn’t choose a pink straw because it would catch my attention.  No, pink was the representational color for raspberry tea throughout their broader campaign.
  • “Go big or go home”:  Some might say that’s a bit cliché for a humble straw, but I don’t believe so.   McDonalds didn’t change the traditional strips to pink stripes, nor did they simply use the sleeve as an ad.  The whole straw was pink, and the entire straw wrapper told you why.
  • Timing:  While promoting iced tea in the summer is a no-brainer, I do want to draw attention to this because a pink (even though this appears to be a different hue) straw in October would not have had the impact—neither in target, nor purpose.

So, as you start to consider your next “big thing” be sure to step back and think about your organization’s every day supplies.  Think about what “normal” stuff you can set aside for a time, while you shake up the norm, to draw attention to the campaign.  What is your “pink straw?”  How will you change the norm…in a meaningful way?

Tell us your ideas for your organization’s “pink straw.”  What was it (or could it be) and how was (can it be) used?  We will publish several of the ideas in a later post.   AND, the winner will get a beautiful ceramic travel mug as a gift.  Give us your ideas in the comments below, tweet us, leave them on our Facebook page, connect with us on LinkedIn, or send us an email at


Chris McGownThis post is provided by guest blogger, Christopher L. McGown, Divisional Development Director for The Salvation Army’s Kentucky & Tennessee Division.   Chris has more than 20 years of diverse experience in all aspects of development. 

While active in a number of social media platforms, he’s easiest to keep up with on Twitter, follow him at @clmcgown

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