McDonald’s Sham-ROCKS Consumers’ Socks Off With Seasonal Shakes

Shamrock Shake

The minty green goodness has returned to us once again, McDonald’s McCafé Shamrock Shake. First making its appearance over 40 years ago as one of the key igniters for the first Ronald McDonald House, this frozen treat has won over consumers and has created a monumental following, not to mention a few, now comical, advertisements from the early 1980s! Shamrock Shake lovers restlessly wait for their small window in March to purchase the frozen drink knowing it will soon be gone until the next year.

Since consumer’s eating habits have greatly changed and developed over the past 40 years, we were curious how their feelings about Shamrock Shakes may have evolved. Although the deliciousness of the green treat is undeniable, consumers overall have a much stronger focus on health and wellness, including Millennials. So we decided to launch one of our Instant Research Groups to gain a quick consumer read on current feelings surrounding this product. Within five days (discussion guide creation to final detailed report) we were able to dig into:

  1. Consumer’s perceptions of the McDonald’s Shamrock Shake (including familiarity, purchase intent and if they consider nutritional information when consuming).
  2. Understanding the reasons for consumption.
  3. Understanding the likes and dislikes of the McDonald’s Shamrock Shake, including any changes consumers wanted to make, if any.

Current Consumer Perceptions

When asking about consumer perceptions of the product, many respondents became nostalgic, noting the first time they were introduced to the shake. Many mentioned the family or friends that first introduced them to it and over a third of respondents noted that they have known about the product for over five years. Respondents also mentioned that a majority of their Shamrock Shake purchases had been spur-of-the-moment and were commonly influenced by their surroundings. They noted that television ads, employees, or store signage was responsible for recent knowledge of the product’s annual return.

IRG Respondent

The last time that I had a shamrock shake was last year in March. I was picking up dinner on my way home from work and saw that they had shamrock shakes so I decided to get one. I did not specifically go just to get one. It was just an on-the-spot decision since it was advertised.

Female, 27

Consumers also provided insight on how the hype of the treats trump nutritional concerns and that “healthy” is not a large part of the decision making process when purchasing a Shamrock Shake. These feelings were shared when looking at the Millennial feedback, as well. Although eating healthy is a value that some respondents brought up, they put that concern aside when choosing a treat like the shake.

IRG Respondent

Nutritional facts do not play a role for my decision on this shake. It is a good reward to myself and I wish to ignore any side effects because it is so yummy and hard to resist it.

Male, 47
IRG Respondent

Normally, I’d say yes. But, because I don’t eat/drink Shamrock Shakes every day, I can allow myself a treat once in awhile. That being said, if they were healthy I’d drink them everyday lol.

Female, 24

Reasons for Purchase

The limited availability of Shamrock Shakes definitely has a strong impact on motivating consumers to purchase one during the March timeframe. Many referred to it as a limited time treat or a seasonal treat and noted if they did not purchase it now, they would have to wait until next year. Respondents continued to mention that seeing it highlighted on the McDonald’s menu and hearing about it from employees made an impact on their decision. Also mentioning that external advertising influenced them to come into stores and purchase.

IRG Respondent

I like to buy this item because it has a good flavor I enjoy, that’s more unusual. They only have it for a limited time, so you have to have it while its available. I also sometimes like to have them on St. Patrick’s Day, for a fun treat, a green shake!

Female, 39
IRG Respondent

Advertising is a huge influence. That’s the only way I know that they are available-much like my beloved McRib. I usually will get a couple during the season just to keep my taste buds from rebelling.

Female, 38

Respondents also mentioned that they were motivated to purchase the shake if others were purchasing it as well or if they could share it with others. They felt that having the shake was an indulgence or a reward for achieving something in their life or a reward for their kids.

IRG Respondent

It’s a treat, and a fun seasonal thing. I like mint. If a friend is getting one I’ll get one too, because I don’t want to feel left out.

Female, 54
IRG Respondent

Looking for something sweet and cool. Not an everyday occasion, more like a special treat or a pick me up. A reward for myself or for my kids for good behavior.

Male, 29

Likes, Dislikes and Suggested Improvements

Overall, respondents liked the fresh minty taste, elaborating that they felt it was smooth and the perfect combination of mint and ice cream for a tasty drink. Although nutrition was on the radar, the Shamrock Shake falls in the “special treat” category and is acceptable to enjoy in moderation. Most consumers also liked the color because it reminded them of the spirit of St. Patrick’s Day. This also included the packaging, pointing out how they liked the new clear cup because they liked seeing more of the unique color. A majority of respondents also thought the price for the treat was reasonable and manageable for the size and the experience they receive.

IRG Respondent

I like the flavor of the shake, it is the perfect amount of mint flavoring. I also like the coloring, it doesn’t look too bright, it is a nice shade of green.

Female, 21
IRG Respondent

Price is good. Good pick me up on the way out the door.

Male, 47

Suggestions for improvements for the product tended to focus on keeping everything the same, but heightening the awareness for the product since it’s only available during a short period of time. A very small group of respondents did mention that they did not like the color, taste, or pricing, suggesting that they wish the ingredients were more natural and since it is only offered for a limited time, it should be free with food items.

IRG Respondent

The best way to make this better is to use all natural ingredients without artificial or synthetic ingredients. An all natural healthy treat would be dynamite.

Male, 37
IRG Respondent

It is pretty good already. If I were to make it perfect, I would give them out free with purchase of any food item in March and it would burn calories as you drink it. This is a big dream on my part, but I think everyone would try them for free, especially if you lost weight drinking it!

Male, 29

Well there you have it! The McDonald’s Shamrock Shake is still legendary with consumers! Although consumers today are much more focused on health and wellness, it was clear that the legacy of Shamrock Shakes continues and the limited availability encourages consumers to have an unplanned “cheat” day in their diets and partake in the cool-mint ice cream treat.

With established, in-market products it’s smart to frequently take a quick consumer read to ensure that your product is still meeting ever-changing consumer needs. It’s clear a majority of consumers have had, or are planning to have, a Shamrock Shake this year, but what about you? Are you planning on consuming the shake this year?

Looking to learn more about this Instant Research Group? Download the full executive summary here!  Or to learn more about how GutCheck and quick consumer reads can help you, request a demo today!