Saturday, September 29, 2012
Horatio Alger, with a Side of Fries
It's that most wonderful time of year once again--Monopoly is back at McDonald's! Though McDonald's is promoting this year as the 20th Monopoly sweepstakes, the restaurant has been collaborating with Hasbro since 1987 all over the world. We all know about the elusive Boardwalk piece and the 1,000,000 McDoubles it would buy. Besides that top prize, the rest have shuffled over the years. Yet, the allure of the money has never been my main excitement over Monopoly at McDonalds. I decided to analyze the aspects of the promotion that make it so appealing.
More... Monopoly has always been about the American Dream. With some luck and saavy investing, you can become rich and powerful in your own little world. This concept is what drives American ideas of economy and power--we don't mind inequality, as long as everyone has a chance to make it big. We're inundated with individual success stories, despite the fact that real life odds are heavily stacked in favor of certain individuals. We celebrate that poor, come from nothing individual. This had special resonance during the Great Depression, when the game experienced its greatest growth. While there are plenty of iconic American board games, this is what makes Monopoly the most "American."
Pairing Monopoly with McDonald's was a stroke of marketing genius. If Monopoly is most representative of this country within the game sphere, then McDonald's dominates the food. These two powerful brands form a successful synergy, despite the fact that Monopoly at McDonald's is completely a game of luck, disregarding any semblance of strategy (unless you make tactical menu choices to optimize your game pieces, like me). If anything, Monopoly at McDonald's involves teamwork, pooling your pieces and splitting the winnings.
What Monopoly at McDonald's gives you is not just the sliver of hope of winning one of the prize. While that lottery mechanic's effect on behavior is well-documented and intuitive, the best aspect of the game is that it gives you a justification for eating at McDonald's. We have the chance to eat our way to fortune. How cool is that? If Monopoly is an analogy for life, Monopoly at McDonald's is the gloss of the American obsession with unhealthy food. We're all dreamers, now we can channel our dreams through fast food. ^