McDonald's Is Strategically Reviving McDonaldland

With the return of the Hamburglar, McDonald’s is focused on its golden age of advertising.

There's reason to believe that Ronald McDonald and friends will make a full and official comeback soon. This week, McDonald's announced the return of the Hamburglar to promote its new and improved hamburgers, the latest marketing push centered around a classic character from the McDonaldland spokesuniverse.

As part of the new campaign, the Hamburglar will be driving around the country in a custom 1970 Plymouth Barracuda, aka the Burgercuda. Anyone who spots the car and its driver are encouraged to scan the QR code on the vehicle, which will entitle them to a McDonald's gift card to try the new burgers (and they might win some swag, too). Even if you don't spot the car, you can also enter to win free McDonald's burgers for a year by going to SpotHamburglar.com.

Other recently revived McDonald’s characters

McDonald's has spent the past two years in a push to weave characters from its vintage McDonaldland universe into modern-day promotions. In fact, the brand has been dipping back into this universe so frequently that it might be a sign of its full-fledged return.

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Back in 2022, McDonald's released the Cactus Plant Flea Market Box, aka Adult Happy Meal, to the delight of the masses. The boxes included figurines of the well-known McDonaldland characters Grimace, the Hamburglar, and Birdie, each with an artistic twist and double sets of eyes.

In June 2023, McDonald's decided to celebrate Grimace's birthday by releasing a special shake and menu in honor of the purple monster. Although likely not the type of viral fame McDonald's expected, the shake took off on TikTok thanks to the mini horror films TikTok users began posting of them trying the shake and then promptly dropping unconscious.

Following this came the return of the brand's McNugget Buddies in December 2023. The buddies, originally introduced in 1988, are essentially anthropomorphic McNuggets with googly eyes, cartoonish personalities, and interchangeable outfits. McDonald's brought the buddies back at the end of last year as a collaboration with New York artist Kerwin Frost. Prior to this, the buddies had not made an appearance in McDonald's restaurants since 1996.

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However, the biggest indication of McDonald's renewed interest in its McDonaldland universe is the recent opening of its spin-off restaurant, CosMc's. The restaurant's concept is based on a lesser known character from the '80s era of the McDonaldland universe. CosMc is an alien character that would visit McDonaldland and often interact with the other characters. Although he's not visually present in CosMc's branding, the silhouette of his spaceship can be seen on the menu and order kiosk screens.

All of these small comebacks could be paving the way for McDonald's to bring back its entire extended universe, Avengers-style. Or did we just give them away a million-dollar Super Bowl ad idea for free?

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