Strange partnerships can sometimes offer amazing sales results to brands and fandoms – think Lego and Batman, or MAC and Hello Kitty.
When McDonalds announced they would be offering a very limited one-day exclusive re-release of their Szechuan sauce originally created as a promotion for Disney’s Mulan, and recently mentioned in the popular cartoon, Rick and Morty it seemed like a fantastic PR stunt to ride on the popularity of the series.

Thousands lined up at McDonald’s resturants across the US prepared to do anything they could to get a taste of the famous ‘Mulan’ sauce, some travelling across multiple states or queuing for hours for a pack of sauce.

Fans of Rick and Morty were instead met with confusion, as many locations listed to have sauce didn’t receive any supply or had extremely low supplies – some restaurants didn’t even know the promotion was taking place. The PR stunt went disastrously wrong as fans began chanting “Give us the sauce,” and in some locations police had to be called to calm the sauceless fans.

McDonalds showed the public what they got- and it wasn’t good. Creators of Rick and Morty have since taken to social media to distance themselves from the poorly-planned promotion – that was not in any way officially associated with the cartoon.

After an uproar of backlash online, McDonalds announced they would be bringing the Szechuan sauce back this winter for the fans who weren’t able to get a taste.

What can we learn from this?

Brand partnerships can be a very positive move for relaunching or launching a new product, when done right. Especially if both parties are involved in the promotion and able to add a touch of their own personality. Brand partnerships like Nike and Michael Jordan can feel very seamless and work very well for both parties involved, the Rick and Morty X McDonalds situation feels like McDonalds is trying to cash in on the popularity of Rick and Morty without really knowing how popular the TV show is. When you create a PR stunt of this nature having one party left in the dark can damage both brands, complicate positive relationships and even in extreme cases end in legal battles.
We also learnt pop culture is a beast, McDonalds underestimated a little cartoon show, and paid the price when they underprepared for a situation that would have been easily solved with larger quantity and world-wide release.

We will have to wait till McDonalds announces the date of the second release of the Szechuan sauce to determine if fans are willing to continue the hype. Until then we will have to settle for this recipe for Szechuan sauce. Wubba lubba dub dub.

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