If Ferrari had Sergio Pininfarina and Apple had Steve Jobs, then the Big Mac is thanks to the plucky Jim Delligatti.
In 1967 the McDonald’s franchisee faced a dilemma. His audience, the steel workers of Pittsburgh, had appetites bigger than his menu’s staple cheeseburger. His subsequent experimentation, the Big Mac – with its two all-beef patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles, onions and a middle bun, topped with a sesame seed roll – was designed to meet their needs and was nothing short of pure, delicious genius. Launched in 1968, it turned out to meet most of America’s needs too, at one point accounting for 19% of McDonald’s revenue. And when the UK’s first McDonald’s opened its doors on Woolwich High Street in 1974, the Big Mac was available front-and-centre as part of a 6-sandwich line-up.
The burger was nothing short of a game-changer, setting the benchmark for casual eating out experiences ever since, and giving the British diner a unique taste of America.
Icons always have a relevancy to the time and environment that bore them, but great icons like the Big Mac are showing they have the ability to transcend their time and be just as relevant to consumers of today. 2018 marks the Big Mac’s 50th anniversary. It still sits as the centrepiece for the McDonald’s brand and remains an ever-present in the national consciousness and popular culture. The red tops still speculate about the source of its secret sauce. And if you want a sign of its all-powerful ubiquity, how about the Economist using the ‘The Big Mac Index’ to compare currencies?
But icons need care and attention. We need to remind Big Mac Lovers, whether or not they’re still eating them, why they love the Big Mac. And we need to spark interest amongst the unconverted, showing why it deserves its iconic status.
It may have taken them 50 years but it is no surprise that, for a limited time only, McDonald’s is doing the extraordinary by introducing two new Big Mac variants; the Grand Mac, for those who need a bigger beefier hit and the Mac Jr, for those who crave a lighter touch but still want to max out on the tantalising special sauce. The ‘design’ success of these two variants will not only be achieved by staying true to original Big Mac ingredients and taste expectations, but also by the visual language consumers experience in and out of restaurant.