McDonald's limited-edition McRib sandwich is available between now and December 5 – and people are going crazy for it. But what does a small pork sandwich have to do with entrepreneurship?
The answer is that the McRib offers an example of strong brand-building. McDonald's may not be known for the devotion that smaller burger chains like In-N-Out or Steak 'N Shake engender, but it's managed to create a lot of hype around the McRib.
The first step to building a successful brand is to create something that people want to buy. The McRib – invented around the same time as the McNugget – is one such product.
But the second step – one that McDonald's has mastered – is more elusive. It's not enough for consumers to want your product – they have to desire it. Building desire can be tough, but some companies – like McDonald's with the McRib or Apple with most of its products – have pulled it off.
What makes the McRib desirable is that it's rarely available. By putting the sandwich on sale for a few weeks out of the year, McDonald's ensures that people will clamor for it. The clamor then renders the McRib an icon, making a simple sandwich legendary.
So what can the McRib teach? It serves as a reminder to budding entrepreneurs that they shouldn't just be asking what kind of product people will want. They should be thinking about what people will go crazy for – and then devise a marketing strategy to make it happen.