McDonald’s Monopoly: A Masterclass in Promotions

Feb 3, 2021
Henry Bewicke
Henry Bewicke
Promotions Advisor
Min to read

McDonald’s has run its world-famous McDonald’s Monopoly promotion since 1987. It's now active in 23 countries around the world, with millions of participating customers each year.

Even if you’ve never participated in McDonald's Monopoly, you’ve probably heard of it. And if you haven’t heard of it, there’s still a lot it can teach you about running a successful gamified promotional campaign.

How does McDonald’s Monopoly work?

McDonald’s Monopoly is ‘free to play’ for customers when they buy food from McDonald’s. Most menu items come with game pieces that allow customers to win a variety of prizes. These game pieces function as stand-in for a promo code or voucher, with opportunities ranging from saving money on McDonald's menu items to shopping vouchers or even a car.

All in all, participating in the promotion is very easy. Simply buy food and collect game pieces for the chance to win. This simplicity, at least on the customer’s side, is one of the key reasons for McDonald’s Monopoly’s success.

Accessibility is important, but it gets more complex when you dissect the mechanics of the campaign in more detail.

McDonald’s Monopoly Gamification

McDonald’s Monopoly makes use of a number of different gamification mechanisms to create a fun, enticing experience for McDonald’s customers.

First of all, there’s the game pieces themselves. The peel-to-reveal action and the design of the pieces are reminiscent of scratch cards. And, of course, the entire promotion itself takes inspiration from one of the most popular board games of all time.

McDonald's Monopoly game pieces on a McDonald's drink cup

Many people would buy food from McDonald’s regardless of the Monopoly promotion. But offering more game pieces on more expensive meals is a great way for McDonald’s to upsell and further gamify the experience.

With two extra pieces on larger meals, many regular customers will choose to upgrade their order for two additional chances to win.

The game pieces don’t just help McDonald’s upsell certain menu items. They also help attract consumers who would never usually buy from McDonald’s.

McDonald’s also runs individual campaigns in each country, with customized game pieces, branding, and prizes. You can find out more about various gamification techniques and how they help businesses achieve their goals in our Gamification Whitepaper. By considering gamification techniques you can add extra promotional power to your coupon codes and discount codes.

McDonald’s Monopoly Prizes

McDonald’s Monopoly prizes range from small dollar menu food items, all the way up to a top prize of $1 million in many markets.

McDonald’s Monopoly doesn’t just offer a wide range of prizes. There are a few different ways customers can win:

  • Instant win pieces that offer free menu items and a variety of other prizes
  • Pieces with codes that can be redeemed online for the chance to win prizes
  • Special pieces that give top prizes when collected as a group

The odds of winning vary drastically depending on the prize. For example, the odds of getting a piece with an instant win food prize are usually around 15-20%. Odds for non-food instant win prizes are significantly less.

Different levels of rewards are essential if you want to bring in as many customers as possible with your promotional campaign.

Collect-to-win odds

Out of all the McDonald’s Monopoly prizes on offer, collect-to-win pieces give by far the lowest winning odds. While they vary from country-to-country and year-to-year, the odds of winning collect-to-win prizes are often significantly below one in a million.

According to the official McDonald’s statistics for the 2020 Canadian McDonald’s Monopoly campaign, the odds of winning some of the top prizes were as follows: 

  • 2021 Chevrolet Trailblazer RS (x7) = 1 in 14,017,015
  • 5 million Royal Bank of Canada Rewards points (x6) = 1 in 16,353,184
  • Air Transat Family Trip for Four (x20) = 1 in 109,470,288
  • $10,000 cash prize (x10) = 1 in 229,376,571

As you can see, the odds of winning any of these prizes are astronomically small. You've got a better chance of winning the lottery than some of the higher collect-to-win prizes.

But McDonald’s uses a clever trick to make customers feel like they’ve got a better chance of winning a top prize.

Redundant game pieces

To win a collect-to-win prize, the rules of the game state that you need all pieces in a certain set. Depending on the set, there are two, three, or four pieces in each, just like real Monopoly.

Someone that’s never participated in McDonald’s Monopoly before will naturally assume that some pieces are rarer than others. They’ll probably also assume there’s a small possibility that they can collect an entire set if they buy often enough.

In reality, all of the collect-to-win pieces are pretty evenly distributed, except for a single piece from each set.

Out of the roughly 100 million total game pieces in the 2020 Canadian McDonald’s Monopoly promotion, there were just 10 winning pieces (‘Percé Rock’) for the $10,000 cash prize.

This gives odds of 1 in 10 million for Percé Rock. But for the set of three, the odds fall to 1 in 229 million. That’s because you’d also need ‘Miles Canyon’ and ‘Columbia Icefield’ to claim the prize.

This is why you’ll often see assortments of the more common McDonald’s Monopoly game pieces for sale on online shopping portal Ebay. Someone who has been lucky enough to find ‘Perce Rock’ could simply buy the other two pieces in the set. This makes the realistic odds of winning significantly higher than 1 in 229 million.

Example promotional game pieces

Tying the campaign together

The various different mechanisms used in McDonald’s Monopoly all work together to create a unique, compelling campaign that has proven its popularity year after year.

On top of the clever game mechanisms used to make McDonald’s Monopoly fun for customers and lucrative for McDonald’s itself, the campaign’s branding, design, and marketing campaigns add the final touch.

Key takeaways from the McDonald’s Monopoly campaign

Very few businesses can ever hope to match the McDonald’s Monopoly campaign’s budget. But they can replicate many of the techniques McDonald’s uses to make McDonald's Monopoly a success.

Smaller businesses can build their own, simpler promotional campaigns. These can still be highly effective, especially when targeting a single business objective, like brand awareness or customer loyalty.

Take Flash Coffee for example. They launched their own highly successful gamified loyalty program with Talon.One to promote customer loyalty as they grow their business across Southeast Asia.

So, to recap.

When building your own promotional campaign, remember that:

  • Promotions can be used to indirectly upsell your products. For example, you can assign additional loyalty points to more expensive products to encourage customers to increase their spend.
  • Offering a range of gamification techniques and incentives to benefit customers increases your campaign’s appeal across a wide audience.
  • The way you brand/design your promotions has a big impact on how attractive they are to your customers.
  • Customizing your promotional campaign for individual markets gives the best results.
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Get Your Free Checklist
Gamified promotion tips
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Download Your Talon.One Loyalty Playbook
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Best Practices for loyalty programs
How to gain a competitive advantage
Your definitive guide to loyal customers