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Brand Strategy McDonalds Marketing

How McDonald’s J-pop jingle became an Indonesian smash hit

By Amit Bapna, APAC editor-at-large

August 31, 2023 | 4 min read

Tapping into Indonesians’ fondness for Japanese culture, the fast food giant not only launched a seasonal menu but also a single into the country’s pop charts.

McDonald’s new ad jingle is a J-pop song

McDonald’s new ad jingle is a J-pop song

A few weeks ago, Ica Zahra, a popular Indonesian singer who now resides in Japan, released her latest J-pop song, ‘Nihon No Fureeba’, but with a twist. It was part of a brand campaign launched by McDonald’s in collaboration with its creative partner Leo Burnett Indonesia.

McDonald’s has leaned into the popular culture of the two Asian nations as part of its annual ‘Taste of the World’ campaign which sees temporary globally-inspired flavors added to local menus. While McDonald’s Indonesia has consolidated its position among families, it needed to work hard to gain traffic and affinity among young teens. Thus, for the relaunch of McDonald’s ‘Taste of Japan’ burgers featuring crispy nori and Yakiniku sauce, the popular J-pop artist was onboarded.

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Nilakshi Medhi, head of strategic planning at Publicis Indonesia, says:The task at hand for the brand was to attract newer enthusiasts via the ‘Taste Of Japan’ menu, beyond the old loyalists, to its repertoire, since in a fast-changing world the brand had to be seen as an innovative brand with exciting flavors among this young, choosy audience.”

Ravi Shanker, chief creative officer at Publicis Groupe Indonesia, explains that while researching McDonald’s fan truths, “we stumbled upon a cultural fact that young Indonesians love all Japanese things from Manga art to J-Pop songs to streetwear but without understanding the meaning of those.” It was this insight that inspired ‘the untranslated ad’ idea.

Instead of introducing a hard-selling product jingle in a 30-second commercial, McDonald’s – quietly – bankrolled a proper song named ‘Nihon No Fureeba’. But since the lyrics were in Japanese, untranslated, listeners assumed that it was just a regular feel-good J-Pop track and not an ad.

The unbranded song was launched on music platforms from the singer’s social handle. It soon took off, becoming the most popular J-Pop song in Indonesia, and at that point, Ravi says, “we hijacked the trend by revealing that it was a McDonald’s Japanese burger ad, and then released the song again with subtitles”.

Only then did it become apparent that all the lyrics of the song were about McDonald’s new ‘Taste of Japan’ burgers. It even had lines like “Soft bun, crispy nori, Yakiniku sauce and authentic taste”. Thus, the song got its second life when people understood the lyrics and shared it all over again, says Ravi.

The track meanwhile has become a popular TikTok dance trend, with more than 3m views and the Number 1 spot on Spotify and Shazam.

The aim of the team here was to do something unexpected and epic, telling a product story most entertainingly, in a market where product advertising is cluttered and tactical, says Ravi. The love that the Indonesian consumers have for all things Japanese was the catalyst the creatives needed.

“In ‘the untranslated ad’ idea, we found our Trojan horse sitting right in the middle of pop culture”, he adds.

Brand Strategy McDonalds Marketing

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