Everyone wants what they cannot have… 

McDonald’s is bringing back its elusive fan favorite sandwich, the McRib.  For most of its existence, the McRib has only been available at select McDonald’s stores across the country for just a few weeks at a time.  This time, McDonald’s is still keeping its rollout limited (to one month), but making it available at stores nationwide.

It could have been a fad, but by playing “hard to get”, McRib has become more than a product- it has become part of pop culture.  Parodied on the Simpsons and the subject of hundreds of fan groups Internet-wide, customers travel from every corner of the US in search of an unparalleled 500 calories of tastiness.    

McDonald’s spokeswoman Tara Hayes told AFP that by limiting  the sandwich’s availability, it “helps to keep fans passionate about the product.”   Only a product “so delicious, so special, so elusive and so legendary could create such a widespread affection among its fans”.

The strategy works because the product was strong to begin with.  There was interest generated by the limited availability and continued by that same strategy.  If you crave it, you know there is a limited window to indulge- otherwise, no McRib for you…until who knows when?

It also works because it is authentic.  It isn’t a false strategy.  There are Internet marketers that try to use exclusivity when there is none (aka, there are only 10 seats left to my free webinar!).  It’s not like you can go to a McDonald’s, give the secret McRib handshake and get one anytime.  It really is limited and when it’s gone, it’s gone.    

Think about how you might use the McRib strategy to prolong the life of a fad product or service or create interest in something special you are offering.  Playing hard to get can be an awesome strategy, but there has to be something to back it up.