Current McRib - © 2022 McDonald's

McRib To Begin First ‘Farewell’ Tour October 31

Yah. I know. But this announcement by McDonald’s has all the signs of a Hallowe’en trick crossed with a cold, calculated attempt to spice up the ‘final appearance’ of a perennial fave with cliff-hanging drama. Will McD’s actually retire McRib forever?

McRib Final Tour - © 2022 McDonald'sSay farewell forever to the iconic oval bun? The faux grill marks across its tender,
boneless back? The sauce that makes it a McRib? McD’s cautions: Grab one, ”
while you can,” before the final curtain comes down, November 30…

I find it hard to believe that McDonald’s will actually lay to rest one of its longest-serving, juicy hype-generating menu items for ever. But if I was a promo and marketing specialist, I would take a look at my options and realize immediately that’s what makes the Rib the perfect focus for a tricky, manipulative campaign.

A little history

The McRib phenomenon deserves a little back story. It’s not all that straightforward.I vividly remember when McDonald’s last removed its controversial McRib sandwich from the menu. It’s temporary arrival back on he active list could always be counted on to create at least a little positive hype, as well as tossing a little fresh gasoline on the eternal fire among its lovers and haters.

This latest return of the Rib is different, though. In the past, it’s always been a matter of lovers calling for another live appearance after the thing’s been gone for what they consider has been too long. And McD’s been happy to comply, after milking the tired, old controversy for a few more pints of predictable hype.

But this time it’s being costumed in the gaudy robes of one of those ‘Last, Final, Ultimate, Hell-Has-Frozen-Over’ mega rock band retirement tours. The whole thing also emits strong echoes of the Disney company tactic of bringing out an ancient classic for the summer, ‘before putting it back in the vault until who-knows-when’.

The intention, I suspect, is to pump up the rusty old Rib controversy one last time, and get the max effect by making the ultimate threat: Letting the Rib out for one last fling before entombing it in the recipe McVault forever.

Recent gambits by the opposition

Is it just a coincidence that Taco Bell brought back its Mexican Pizza a couple of months ago, claiming riotous fan demands? This, following a threat to ditch the controversial menu item for good? Likewise, the more recent Bell contest in which fans were asked to vote for which of two former limited-time faves to restore to the main menu permanently? I wonder if McD’s was envious of the contest results: more than 760,000 votes came in, in under a week. Catch the wave!

All that aside

McD’s is doing its best to build up the McRiB ‘Farewell’ tour as a big event. Like the departure of a legendary athlete from a pro sports team by retiring his jersey and number. Or reducing the poor guy to tears on his last appearance, like the Golf Channel did to senior commentator Sir Nick Faldo at the end of his final PGA Tour broadcast a few weeks back. I’m not sure whether I’d prefer a quiet, dignified exit stage left, or a ticker-tape parade. But I’m no big-time celeb. I’m sure I won’t have to worry about making such a choice – much less having it thrust upon me.

My take

I’ve lived in or near the music business for much of my adult life. And I fully understand how these things work. An old, beloved band retires to coast on its legend, but comes to a point where it can no longer live on the cash it has left in the bank. A come-back Tour usually satisfies not only the need for a cash infusion, but the lingering, sweet aftertaste of playing for a live audience of die-hard, super-fans again. Better yet, a whole string of such gigs.

Thus it is that I predict we’ll see at least one encore appearance by the McRib before it’s really ‘over’, and maybe, also, a string of McRib’s greatest hits…

~ Maggie J.