Engagement marketing is my passion because I love blending media with experiential. When you make that one-on-one connection with someone, you are forever embedded in his or her memory. You create a relationship. You stop being a logo. A corporation. Nameless. Faceless. Emotionless. And you become real.

One of my favorite campaigns is “The Sweet Life” and it is the perfect example of fusing together traditional marketing and experiential marketing.

It began when we were launching McCafé Frappés at McDonald’s.

Our marketing plan had everything that you would expect in a new product launch. A healthy advertising budget with media running on digital, television, radio, out-of-home, and print. With the media plan completed and CPCs, CPMs, GRPs/TRPs, and ROI established, it was time to move on to my favorite part of every campaign. Connecting. How do I make this come alive to my consumer? How do I make that one-on-one connection where he/she will feel privileged, valued, and heard?

First, let’s ground ourselves in our product.



We were in the second phase of launching McCafé and the next menu items we were rolling out were Frappés – deliciously blended drinks that came in two flavors, Mocha and Caramel. We positioned the product as the perfect satisfying snack that gives you that little oomph you need to make it through the rest of your day. This benefited McDonald’s by identifying a growth opportunity and giving them another meal occasion – hitting that mid-afternoon lull between lunch and dinner where in-store sales were lagging.

Next, whom are we trying to reach? Our target demographic was African-American women. Ladies who were overworked and underappreciated. They needed to be recognized. They had kids and a full-time job. Maybe two. They were tired, busy, and rushed. Exhausted. And this is where McDonald’s could step in and be their hero, giving them what they desperately needed: a pause. A moment. A breath. A short respite in her day where she can relax, turn the focus back on herself, and even be rewarded for it. She works hard juggling all the demands of her life and for the love of God she deserves a much-needed break.


Let’s give her one.



“Black Women do not do what we want to do, Black Women do what we have to do.” Dr. Dorothy L. Height, CEO, NCNW


Great. How?


Look at her media landscape and pinpoint that exact moment when you can integrate your brand into her world naturally and seamlessly.


As a media planner, I dive into the data. See the fun in it so that you don’t let the numbers overwhelm you. It’s a puzzle. All of that information you’re gathering helps you put together a media plan and a media buy that will reach the exact person that you have identified as your target demographic. Let all the data points come together to paint a full picture of who this person really is. And think of them like that. A person. Give them a name and let the data bring them to life.


When you are passed the basics and are laser-focusing on her media consumption it is imperative to look at the data in multiple ways.


For example, you can pull data on whether she watches TV or not. But then you also need to cross-reference that data with how engaged she is when she has it on. Does she have it on all the time (meaning her usage is very high), but isn’t paying attention (showing it’s background noise)? Or is her usage low (which many people take to mean it’s not a great way to reach her, but they’re wrong), but when she is watching she’s highly engaged (and that is a media planner’s dream. She doesn’t watch a lot of TV but she’s super loyal to shows when she does. This is the type of person who not only never misses an episode of The Voice, but also dials in for her favorite contestant)? If it’s the latter that means I can have a very specific media buy that will reach our target, in budget, without wasting any impressions. See, a dream.


It’s in this combination of consumption and engagement that you see the medium with which she is most passionate and engaged.


For our African-America mother, it was radio.



She loves it. She gets up by an alarm clock radio. As she’s getting ready she’s listening to the DJs on her local radio morning show. She loves their banter, the guests, the on-air pranks they pull. All of it. It’s just fun, and laughing is a great way to start her day. In her car, she flips back and forth between that same station she woke up with and Sirius XM. When fighting traffic is over, she grabs a cup of coffee and heads over to her desk where she loads Pandora and gets to work. Finally, on her drive home, she listens to the afternoon DJs to get her rush hour updates. As her mind wanders, she starts thinking about what she’s going to make for dinner. That reminds her that they ran out of milk at breakfast so she pulls into Walmart to pick up a gallon on her way home.

It’s at this pit stop where we interrupted her on her path to purchase and brought McDonald’s into her life when it wasn’t even anywhere near to being on her radar.

In planning our “Sweet Life” campaign I identified the top stations for our African-American audience in each of our core markets – RDF, Greensboro, GSA, and Charlotte. I then chose a DJ on each station who would represent our brand as an ambassador. Someone who could engage their listeners and speak about the indulgent qualities of McDonald’s McCafé Frappés.

I tasked each DJ to be authentic. I didn’t want it to sound like a sales pitch. And we’ve all heard those.

After listening to their initial tapes, I went back to several and pushed them to be themselves. Nothing sticks out more like a sore thumb then when you’re listening to a DJ and they’re laid back and laughing with others in the studio, talking about how they’re dreading going to their kid’s recital and then there’s an abrupt pause and a sales pitch. “How’m I gonna sit through 25 kids playin’ the recorder! I mean, c’mon, is that even a real instrument? When’d you turn on the radio and go, ‘that song is hot! Wait, is that a recorder?!!!’ But you know what I can sit through? A Caramel or Mocha Frappé from McDonald’s. McDonald’s Frappés are a cool, indulgent treat…” See what I mean? And nothing turns a listener off more. It kills the conversation and takes you out of the moment. It’s like a stop sign when you’re on the freeway going 80 mph.

Instead, be yourself. That’s why they’re listening.

I would ask them, “Did you like both flavors?” And each would rave about how they just adored McDonald’s and all the flavors and every single menu item. Oh, how they gushed (we were paying them after all and they certainly didn’t want to bite the hand that fed them). But I wasn’t looking for that. After telling them that I wanted their honest opinion they would begin to open up. “The Mocha’s not my favorite, but I really do love the Caramel!” “Fantastic,” I would say. “Then talk about the Caramel. Don’t even mention the Mocha because you can hear it in your voice that you’re not a fan. And that’s cool. I promise you I’m not offended. But when you talk, be yourself and talk about what you do like.” What a difference that made. Our spots went from forced to easy, light, and conversational.

These four women – Shena J on WQOK, DJ Chirl Girl on WBAV, DJ Kelly Mac on WJMZ, and Afrika on WJMH – promoted our products each week for eight weeks through on-air placements and community outreach that focused on “women on the go”.

One-on-one they met African-American women when they were going into the grocery store, hair salon, gas station, or the gym and they listened to the stresses of these hardworking women. Women who had finished their workday and were now going home to their “real job” of being a wife and mother. Our DJs could relate because they were these women too. After they listened and heard these mothers, each DJ gifted them with a BOG (Be Our Guest) card, acknowledging that they deserved a break, and rewarded them with a “Sweet Treat”.



Our DJ Brand Ambassadors also hosted “Sweet Life” parties in-store and promoted it on-air by gifting a McCafé Frappé for the first 10 people – not only creating excitement and buzz for our “Sweet Life” program but also driving incremental traffic into the largest QSR in the world. At those parties, customers inevitably purchased a McCafé Frappé as well as several other menu items.

In addition to the “Sweet Treat” gifting, at the end of our campaign, our DJs drew names from all of the women they had met on the street and one lucky lady was given the opportunity to “Relax, Relate, and Release” with a massage and spa treatment.

McDonald’s became their hero because they cared. They were there in the trenches with them, cheering them on.

The radio portion of our campaign consisted of:

  • :30 spots
  • :15 spots
  • :60 DJ vignettes
  • :15 DJ endorsements
  • DJ podcasts
  • Social posts
  • DJ van hits and in-store promotional events

In curating content, we were able to keep our campaign updated and fresh. This content included:

  • Photos, videos, and interviews of our DJ speaking one-on-one with our busy and stressed mom. Quotes were also utilized as snippets on our social sites
  • Photos, videos, and interviews of our DJs “Sweet Life” van hits/remotes that were hosted inside McDonald’s restaurants
  • Additional radio spots that were fun and organic
  • Billboards that were more than just product shots
  • In-store signage that promoted upcoming “Sweet Life” parties as well as pictures that served as post-party collateral

This rich content was used both during the campaign and after to extend the program’s shelf life and to keep the upward trend in sales momentum while solidifying our new meal occasion. What was most rewarding was having our campaign take on a life of its own and receive recognition from the local television news stations. This was exciting and validated everyone’s hard work.

“The Sweet Life” used a positioning strategy that allowed McDonald’s to have an authentic and real conversation with African-American women. When the pressures of daily life become too much – stress, drama, deadlines, and worked nerves – the “Sweet Life” represented a grown-up time out. It was about slowing the pace just long enough to gain composure, re-charge, exhale, and cope gracefully.

It is my goal with each campaign to maximize each tactic. As a media planner and media buyer, my first priority is to build a foundation rooted in strategy and insights. Then, data has to be compiled and analyzed to make sure that our target market receives the message. That’s why that step is so important.


It doesn’t matter how great your campaign is if the person you’re trying to reach never even sees it.


In activation, I work tirelessly to squeeze every dollar and obtain the maximum amount of added-vaIue as humanly possible. I optimize my media buys in real-time, constantly modifying them and keeping a laser-focus on impressions.


But it’s also my job to be creative. To think outside the proverbial box.


In creating a long-lasting relationship with our consumer, my goal is to make a memory. And with the “Sweet Life,” we did. We disrupted her on her path to purchase and found fun, energetic, and exciting ways to connect and engage with her. Ways that lasted far longer than the eight weeks of our marketing and advertising campaign.



“That was so nice!!! of them! You know what, I should swing by and pick up dinner for the family. I didn’t want to have to go home and cook anyway. They’re right. I do need a break!!”