Case Study on McDonald’s Promotion in Honk Kong and Singapore


Differences in cultures among countries influence the effectiveness of an entity’s marketing activities. For instance, promotion activities tolerated in some countries may go against cultural aspects such as the predominant religious norms in other countries. According to such cultural differences among nations, researchers such as Hofstede and Trompenaars have argued for the need for an entity to understand the cultural dynamics in its foreign operations (Nardon & Steers, 2009; Waxin & Panaccio, 2005). This report evaluates how change in McDonald’s promotion strategy in its operations in Singapore generated unfavorable outcomes and assesses the initiatives the entity undertook to manage such outcomes.

Promotion Challenges Facing McDonald’s in Singapore

The influence of culture in defining marketing activities is exemplified by McDonald’s promotion strategy in Hongkong. The entity, in its Doraemon Lucky Charms promotion, utilized the Chinese astrological orientation to offer 12 Doraemon toys, corresponding to 12 animal signs in Chinese astrology, as a lure for customers to purchase McDonald’s Happy Meal (Ling, n.d). The promotion proved a success in Hong Kong whose population is predominantly (97 %) Chinese (Ling, n.d, p. 615). Although the population in Singapore is also mainly Chinese (77%), McDonald’s altered its Doraemon Lucky Charms promotion by replacing the twelfth sign – a pig – with a cupid in an attempt to be sensitive to the Muslim population since they do not consume pork (Ling, n.d). Such a strategy lead to the failure of the promotion strategy in Singapore with most people considering it insensitive for the entity to eliminate a core traditional aspect of Chinese culture (Ling, n.d).

Zodiac Signs in Chinese Culture and Their significance

Unlike in the West where the 12 zodiac symbols (e.g. Aries Cancer, Leo and Virgo) inform of people’s beliefs, in Chinese culture the 12 animal signs of Chinese astrology are a core basis of belief (Ling, n.d; Saxon, 2006, p. 76). The animals, which are believed to have been hosted by Buddha who honored them by dedicating a year according to their arrival, are Rat, Ox, Tiger, Rabbit, Dragon, Snake, Horse, Sheep, Monkey, Rooster, Dog and Pig (Ling, n.d, p. 614; Wu, 2005; Chinese Cultural Center, 2005; Xiaohu, 2005, p. 25). Each animal’s year repeats every 12 years with each animal being honored during the lunar New Year events in its year (Ling, n.d; Chinese Cultural Center, 2005; Lewis, 2003). Since the animal years correspond to the annual calendar, one’s year of birth and age can be derived by knowing ones animal year. For instance, individuals born in the year of the rat could have been born in the following years: 1924, 1936, 1948, 1960, 1972, 1984, 1996 and 2008 (Ling, n.d, p. 614).

The significance of the 12 zodiac signs is heightened by the belief that a person’s personality and events in his life are influenced by the character traits of the animal year in which he was born. For instance, people born in the year of the horse are claimed to be energetic, independent and warmly appealing whereas those born in the year of the pig are associated with compassion, diligence, generosity and patience (Sharp, 2007, Wu, 2005, p. 296). Following such importance placed on the Zodiac signs, the decision by McDonald to replace the pig with the cupid in Singapore communicated insensitivity towards the Chinese population especially those who were born in the year of the pig (Ling, n.d). Go to part 2 here.

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