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What Caught My Eye: Conjuring Up a Happy Meal for Candidates

A series of weekly outside-the-box news stories and the lessons they hold for recruiters, by TAtech CEO Peter Weddle.

McDonalds will offer adult Happy Meals this October : NPR

Though I’ve since adopted a more sophisticated palate, I can still remember the exquisite taste of my very first McDonald’s hamburger and fries. It was … well, given how many years have since passed, a sensory experience for the ages.

And apparently, I’m not alone. McDonald’s is one of the savviest marketing companies on the planet and they’ve decided to launch an adult Happy Meal during the month of October. They’re bringing back the classic hamburger, fries and a small soda to satisfy the cravings of what they judge to be a huge population of adults who still have an eight-year-old running around inside them.

Why bother? According to news reports, there are at least two reasons. First, they’re repackaging the experience to make sure it remains relevant to a segment of their customer base. And second, they’re responding to a certain level of nostalgia its research has identified among the people who pick up the tab for all those kiddie Happy Meals they sell. As the company put it, "One day you ordered a Happy Meal for the last time and you didn't even know it.”

So, the company will turn back the clock with a specially purposed Happy Meal for adults that will also include … ta-dah, a classic McDonald’s character. That’s right. You can get Grimace, the Hamburgler or Birdie and a figure from the month-long campaign’s sponsor (Cactus Plant Flea Market) called Castus Buddy.

It’s a carefully calculated strategy, which probably already has the kid inside you resetting your schedule so you can buy not one, not two, not three, but at least four Happy Meals during the month. That’s the only way to optimize the odds of collecting all of the figures, but more importantly, it’s the one sure way to transform your McDonald’s customer experience from a fond memory to a fresh habit.

What can recruiters learn from this marketing initiative?

Tariq Hassan, McDonald’s USA Chief Marketing and Customer Experience Officer, described the Happy Meal reset as “repackaging it in a new way that’s hyper-relevant for our adult fans.” In today’s tight talent market, that statement perfectly expresses the essence of an effective strategy for connecting with candidates. Instead of repackaging a product, however, recruiting teams should reconfigure their practices so they deliver a hyper-relevant experience throughout the process.

I understand that’s much easier said than done. And, it’s a particularly steep challenge for recruiters, given the chronic understaffing of many recruiting teams. Indeed, even with a full complement of recruiters, many employers expect each recruiter to handle a dozen or more open reqs at the same time. So, there’s little wiggle room in the system for evaluating where and how to repackage their candidate interactions in a way that will transform them into something like a “happy” experience.

However, my partner on the Start Smart podcast, Shelia Gray, VP of Global Talent Acquisition at Quadient, may have a solution. She and her team don’t have the time to respond to the daily barrage of communications they get from talent technology solution providers, and while they aren’t interested in chasing each new “shiny object” that comes onto the market, they also don’t want to miss a product that could be helpful to them. So, she’s set up what she calls her “shiny object team” – a group of her recruiters with an interest in technology who are willing to invest the time to triage the messages and investigate those that might be of interest. Open reqs still get filled, but the team is also able to keep its eye on new technologies that can help it operate more effectively and/or efficiently.

That same approach could be used to identify and evaluate alternative practices, procedures and policies in an employer's recruiting process that could be repackaged in a way to make them hyper engaging for candidates. Unlike the McDonald’s initiative, of course, the goal isn’t to create a one-month change, but instead to install features that will be relevant for a while. That will have a greater impact than simply offering some classic character toys.

And yet, even that greater longevity is time-delimited. The preferences, behaviors, and expectations of candidates are now morphing incessantly, so what creates an engaging experience for them is morphing as well. In the past, adjustments to practices, procedures and policies could be made infrequently, as new workforce generations rose and older generations retired. Today, the introduction of repackaged process elements must occur much more like a marketing campaign, initiated if and when the market requires.

Food for Thought,

Peter Weddle is the author or editor of over two dozen books and a former columnist for The Wall Street Journal. He is also the founder and CEO of TAtech: The Association for Talent Acquisition Solutions. You can download his latest book – The Neonaissance – FOR FREE at And, if you don't have time to read the entire book, just download a short excerpt of his inspirational message.