Pop Culture Trends Drive Top 2023 QSR Insiders

 The CosMc's mascot.


MediaPost readers love pop culture tie-ins and collabs, even in their QSR marketing trade stories, according to the list of top10 most-read QSR Insider stories for 2023. Secondarily, readers like deeper dive analysis into top news stories, with various opinions from within the industry. Below we recap the most popular pieces.

Topping analysis was the No. 1 most-read story, “Papa John's Focuses On DEI, Values In Agency Search,” which dove into the crux of the review, and referenced industry experts on the RFP’s targeted focus on diversity, equity and inclusion. The account was later awarded to Martin and Carat

Coming in at No. 10 most-read was an interview with Panda Express’ Vice President of Integrated MarCom Fabiola Del Rio, in “Panda Express Talks New Brand-Focused Advertising Direction.” Del Rio discussed the context behind the brand’s newly launched effort from The Many, where it “shifted from a product-driven campaign to a more insight-driven approach,” a first for the company.

These two examples aside, the majority of the most-read stories contained some form of pop culture reference or collaboration.

Published at the height of Barbiemania, unsurprisingly coming in at No. 2, is “Why No Drive-Thru Barbie?”  The story explored the very minimal QSR collabs for the (now) entertainment franchise, speaking with QSR vet and Undnyable President Justin Hooper about their scarcity: “’Barbie’ the movie itself, and all the surrounding marketing for it, is really just an advertisement for Barbie, the product. Which might mean the QSR world in the States didn't find the value in attaching themselves to both a movie, and another product.” 

Coming in at No. 3 was the unveiling of my personal hatred of everything pumpkin spice upon being deluged with the flavor in everything from lattes to Oreos from September through January. Judging by the post's high readership, I guess I’m not alone.

Perhaps the most-talked-about brand offshoot in QSR history, the No. 4 story, “Hey, McDonald's, Just WHAT Is CosMc's?dug into the what and why of McDonald’s beverage-based Illinois store. Since its actual opening last month, the QSR community still can’t get enough of the single location’s unique offerings and quirky alien mascot.

Rounding out the pop-culture reads is one where a brand made itself part of the story: "Applebee’s and its infamous Dollarita.” Immensely popular, especially on social media where fans called for the promo’s return, the fast casual restaurant’s recent limited-time offer of $1 margaritas whipped customers into a new round of social media frenzy. It served as a good value for customers during tough economic times, and fantastic PR for the chain. We await its next round in 2024.

Additionally, a how-to post, “How To Reap The Rewards Of Loyalty Programs: Q&A With Thanx CEO Zach Goldstein,” landed at No.4, and a look into the link between football and fast food,  “QSRs Are Top NFL Advertisers,” was No. 4. Rounding out the list were “Streaming Preferences: QSR Customers Like Dance, Holiday, Soap Opera Content," No. 6, and "Chronic Tacos Serves More Than Just The Munchies," No. 9.

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