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McDonald’s Fails the Meme Test

So the power and internet access have been restored in Hurricane Irma’s wake and I’ve finally adjusted my body clock back to Eastern Standard Time, so it’s time to resume regular blog order.

On the menu this week? Szechuan sauce. Specifically the McDonald’s variety. Specifically its botched re-release in response to a viral online campaign as the result of a cartoon.

Sound good? Great—let’s start.

A brief explainer: Rick and Morty, the wildly popular animated series on Cartoon Network’s “Adult Swim” featured McDonalds’ limited edition Mulan Szechuan sauce in one of its episodes earlier this year. Said sauce was released in 1998 as a promotion for Disney’s Mulan. Naturally, in response to the Rick and Morty episode, the internet began to demand its sauce.

McDonalds, seeing a clever opportunity for a bit of a PR stunt, announced that the Szechuan sauce would be available in limited supply at specific locations throughout the United States.

Poor McDonalds: you underestimated Meme Power.

The event was a predictable disaster, with throngs of Rick and Morty diehards swarming McDonald’s locations throughout the country, demanding the heralded dipping sauce. Stores quickly ran out of their supplies, leaving hordes of irate customers—some traveling as far as Canada—to stage impromptu Szechuan protests. People took to MdDonald’s parking lots with signs emblazoned with “We Want Sauce,” and police were called to quell the crowds.

Ah, the internet.

McDonald’s acknowledged its bungling of the promotion, and has since apologized—and announced that Mulan Szechuan sauce will be widely available this winter. The pandemonium goes to show that not all quirky corporate events designed to engage the online community are particularly well-advised.

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