McDonald's Tries Loyalty Program in Hawaii

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The more Big Macs customers eat in Hawaii, the more points they earn toward free McDonald's food as part of a loyalty program that may soon reach the mainland.

"The Oak Brook, IL, headquarters [of McDonald's] is really interested in the [McExtra] loyalty program and watching what we are doing very carefully," said Melanie Okazaki, marketing supervisor at McDonald's Restaurants of Hawaii Inc., Honolulu. "There is always some interest in providing our customers with something extra."

The 73 McDonald's restaurants in Hawaii rolled out the program in November to lure more customers. After promotion in print, television, radio and point-of-purchase advertising, McExtra has 285,000 members and the restaurants are enjoying an increase in business.

"There is a competitive environment in Hawaii," Okazaki said. "It's not specifically fast food. There are just a lot of choices when it comes to eating out. We wanted to differentiate ourselves and also provide an added value for our customers."

Customers can enroll at any participating restaurant by filling out a form that asks for their name, address, birthday, telephone number, annual income range, marital status, number of household members, names and birthdays of their children, number of visits to McDonald's each month, and number of visits to other fast-food chains each month.

"We don't require that they fill out the entire form, but we explain that the more they can fill out the better," Okazaki said. "In the future, there may be some specials that we can tie back to their birthday."

Customers receive their McExtra card when they turn in the form. A silver window on the card shows the number of points earned for each purchase and the number of points accumulated. A thermal component in the window enables a special mechanical reader to erase the previous number of points and print in the new amount. A magnetic strip on the card records the number of times the customer visits.

Customers gain one point for each dollar spent at McDonald's. They get a free beverage after accumulating 10 points, free french fries or hash browns for 25 points, a classic sandwich for 35 points and a deluxe sandwich for reaching 50 points. At 50, all points are erased and customers begin again.

In addition to free food, customers are randomly awarded prizes, including a trip to Las Vegas from Aloha Airlines. Prizes are offered by companies in exchange for free advertising.

Okazaki is planning to incorporate direct marketing elements into the program. Her company plans to merge the enrollment form information with the data on the McExtra cards to create a clearer picture of McDonald's customers.

"There are so many marketing possibilities in this program, it is just really exciting," Okazaki said.

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