Saturday, October 23, 2021

Smooth Like Butter

I’ve been following K-pop for almost ten years now. I’m not an Army—I’m a MooMoo and a Buddy, something you may have gleaned if you know these things and have read recent columns. But I can’t help but imagine myself in the Army’s shoes sometimes. Imagine being a fan of BTS, one of the world’s biggest pop acts. Imagine seemingly having the world in the palm of your hand, as brands fight to have a piece of your devotion to those seven boys from Seoul.

 

Now, imagine you’re McDonald’s, on the cusp of announcing the BTS Meal.

 

Sure, it’s really just a 10-piece pack of chicken nuggets, fries, a drink, and two sauces we don’t normally have. That should be easy enough for a global fast food chain to get ready for. Still, I imagine a lot of preparation must have been done to ensure that a meal targeting extremely passionate Armys launches as smoothly as possible. There’s the matter of planning for the surge in demand for chicken nuggets, for one. McDonald’s will have to make more of those in the commissaries, which means a bigger-than-usual order for the needed ingredients, as well as increased manufacturing capacity for a time.

 

There’s the matter of two new sauces, hot chili and Cajun, both of which weren’t sold in the Philippines prior to the promotion. At least the chain already has the recipes—both sauces are standard in South Korea, so it’s a matter of transferring recipes over here, graphing how many will buy the meal so the sauces don’t run out, and, of course, sourcing the ingredients.

 

There’s the matter of the packaging. Some will say you’re really only buying the BTS Meal for the packaging—the usual McDonald’s boxes with the ubiquitous BTS logo on it. You’ll have to have those made, again gauging how much demand is anticipated in the six weeks the set will be available.

 

There are the stores themselves. The staff has to be prepared to handle a bigger-than-usual crowd, especially considering we’re still under some form of lockdown and big crowds haven’t been a thing here for over a year. It’s worth noting that, in the Philippines, McDonald’s coordinated with local governments, down to the barangay level, to ensure crowd control and social distancing. Coordination also had to be made with the delivery services, both McDonald’s in-house fleet as well as services like Grab and Foodpanda.

 

All that for 10 pieces of chicken nuggets, eh?

 

By all indications, the BTS Meal launch was a success. My Army friends have had nice experiences and seemed to enjoy the spectacle, for lack of a better term. I don’t think the Philippines had scenes similar to Indonesia’s, where stores were swarmed by riders and customers alike, to the point that some stores had to be closed down due to the risk posed by COVID-19.

 

I’m also happy to report that service for those who aren’t buying the meal doesn’t seem to be disrupted as well. I’m still able to buy breakfast as normal. I did ask the crew at the nearest branch, and they said that there were a lot of people during the BTS Meal’s first weekend.

 

What’s all this got to do with supply chain? Sure, this is a marketing-led initiative—if you get the world’s biggest pop act promoting your brand, why not take advantage? But making a success of it requires everyone, from procurement to planning to production to marketing, to work together and be on the same page. Imagine the Cajun sauce running out during that first weekend. The fans would be livid.

 

There’s also the need to coordinate with external stakeholders to ensure that everyone benefits. For delivery services, there’s a lot of business at stake. (Remember the Grab driver who got flak for his comments against BTS? Fans responded by using other services. These days it’s as much about managing your reputation as it is about managing your service levels.) For local governments, this means an uptick in the economy that is much needed in these times. But in the end, everyone has to work together to achieve the desired results.

 

And it’s not just about big-ticket promotions like this one. This level of coordination and collaboration is one we see in the movement of pretty much everything these days. Yes, you may only be buying this for the paper bags, but a lot of work goes on behind the scenes to make sure everything is, well, smooth like butter.

 

Now, I wonder if this will mean we’ll see more nugget sauces available here soon? If the Koreans have their pick, why can’t we? The Cajun sauce is quite good.

 

Henrik Batallones is the marketing and communications director of SCMAP, and editor-in-chief of its official publication, Supply Chain Philippines. More information about SCMAP is available at scmap.org.

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