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McDonald’s mobile-focused sales blitz falters after Step-it tracker complaints

August 18, 2016

Happy Meals now come with a free activity tracker

Happy Meals now come with a free activity tracker

McDonald’s attempt to piggyback on the renewed interest in wearables by giving away a free Step-it activity tracker with each Happy Meal encountered an obstacle after it received complaints of the fitness band causing skin irritations, resulting in the item being withdrawn.

The fast-food chain delved into the wearables space as it continues its mobile-focused sales initiatives, which have recently included virtual reality iterations and in-restaurant tablet deployments. McDonald’s hoped to ramp up sales of its Happy Meals by giving away Step-it pedometers and adapting to the increasingly mobile-first culture enjoyed by younger consumers, but announced today that it will pull the trackers due to complaints of skin irritations.

“McDonald’s repeatedly embraces new technologies, to maintain its position as a modern and progressive burger brand,” said Daniel Dreymann, co-founder and CEO of Mowingo, the developer behind the McD mobile application.

Incentivizing purchases
Fans of McDonald’s Happy Meals were temporarily able to receive a free Step-it activity tracker with each purchase, marking a stark departure from the meals’ previous freebies, which typically included figurines and plush toys.

The brand is employing more of a mobile focus than ever as it brainstorms ways to excite a younger fan base and attain new customers following several shaky quarters.

The Step-it pedometers came in six colors and contained a three-light system that showcased the wearer’s activity levels.

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The wearables could also be leveraged for mobile gaming

The wearables, designed by global marketing agency Creata, were introduced partly to coincide with McDonald’s role as a sponsor of the Rio Olympics.

According to a report on Engadget, the fitness tracker was set to be available for four weeks. McDonald’s planned to advertise it on television as well as in pre-roll YouTube ads, likely before kid-friendly videos.

However, reports today revealed that McDonald’s is pulling the item after customers complained of the pedometer burning their children’s skin and causing skin irritations.

Spotlight on mobile
With the quick service restaurant space growing tighter by the day, McDonald’s has been forced to revamp its marketing model and employ a larger focus on mobile strategies – particularly where driving in-store traffic is concerned.

In April, McDonald’s UK rolled out a new sales tactic enticing consumers to visit its stores and take advantage of new Samsung Galaxy tablets that enable users to browse the Internet, play games or interact on social media networks (see story).

step oth 420
McDonald’s recently transformed Happy Meal packaging into VR headsets

McDonald’s also added a new spin to its Happy Meal by allowing customers in Sweden to download a complementary mobile application and turn the packaging into a virtual reality viewer, underscoring the fast food chain’s desire to build relationships with younger consumers (see story).

These recent initiatives suggest that the Big Mac marketer is not looking to slow down on mobile tactics anytime soon.

“Other examples include the augmented reality app McDonald’s promoted during the soccer World Cup, a couple of years ago, and the constant innovation around the main McDonald’s app,” Mr. Dreymann said.

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Alex Samuely is staff writer on Mobile Commerce Daily, New York. Reach her at

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