The Last Of Us And The McWrap

What is common between the latest PS3 game The Last Of Us and the recent McDonald’s addition to its menu The Premium McWraps?


Let’s first take The Last Of Us

If you still haven’t heard of this survival horror video game, you must be hiding under an abandoned bunker in a post apocalyptic zombie infested world.


At least that’s how you might feel once the brilliance of this creation hits you. Declared as a masterpiece, for its choice-enabling gameplay, realistic action, emotional depth in the plot, sound design, and environments, The Last Of Us has been the biggest video game launch of 2013 so far, selling over 1.3 million units in its first week after its worldwide release on June 14, 2013  (source)

A key innovation that underpins the genius of this game’s design is its AI system called as Balance Of Power. This enables realistic combat situations and enriches stealth attack tactics to what it calls as Dynamic Stealth.

Dynamic Stealth: While Stealth is not particularly new as a gameplay tactic, the genius of Dynamic Stealth lies in how it makes the player own the consequences of his actions in real time. For example:

  • If you’re infiltrating a secured building and see two guards at the entrance,  you create a distraction, split them up, and take out one of them when he’s off in the shadows. In other stealth games, the second guard would stoically continue to be on the watch as if nothing had happened.  But with Dynamic Stealth he starts to wonder where his buddy went, gets panicky and might even call for extra cover and back up.
  • the game doesn’t pause when the player  is accessing their inventory and assembling weaponry (loading guns, crafting a molotov cocktail etc), so the player’s stealth tactics are governed by real life like rules of space and time.

Instead of  just bombarding the player with a constant stream of actions resulting in cookie clutter shoot and swear sequences, the Dynamic Stealth system lets the user set the pace of his own survival experience and make him fully own the consequences of his decisions and actions. And that for me is the big insight in interaction or use case design from The Last of Us: 

If the system is designed in such a way that it allows the user to own the consequences of his decisions and actions, they’d willingly embrace all its resulting outcomes – both positives and negatives.

Now let’s move over to The Premium McWrap


Launched on April 1 2013 after 2 years of R&D and a blockbuster like pre-launch fan fare, the marketing mix of this newest addition to the McDonald’s menu can be summarized  as follows: (Source)

Product: The McWrap is a 10-inch, white-flour tortilla wrapped around 3 ounces of chicken (grilled or crispy), lettuce, spring greens, sliced cucumbers, tomatoes, and cheddar jack cheese topped with ranch, sweet chili, or creamy garlic dressing.

Proposition: “The Subway Buster”

Target Group: Millenials, 18-32, who are looking for healthier and tastier alternatives to their fast food.

Packaging:  The PKG design requires the customers to tear off the top half of the container. “The packaging was a very big, big idea,” says Kasey Short, director of menu innovation in the U.S. “When you unzip the product, there was more excitement.” It’s also designed to fit easily in a standard cup holder; 65% of McDonald’s customers order at the drive-through.

Price:  At $3.99, it’s four times the cost of a McChicken.

Service: Assembled in 60 seconds, the lettuce and chicken peek out of the top, suggesting farm-to-table freshness.

Ingredients:  After lot of R&D, testing and negotiations with the suppliers, McDonald’s managed to add one new ingredient to the McDonald’s arsenal: the English cucumber. That might not seem like a big change, but when the chain added sliced apples to its menu, it immediately became one of the largest buyers of apples in the country! So this addition has a huge implication on the supply chain of cucumbers around the world.

As an analyst sums it up “It’s the best piece of total marketing we’ve seen out of them in a long time. It’s convenient, healthy, fresh, good-tasting, and filling”.  While reading about these specific elements of the mix was definitely interesting, the big reveal for me came towards the end in this Businessweek article:

… the McWrap serves another stealth purpose…..customers may come into restaurants with healthy intentions but fall short of their aspirations…. With salads and now the McWrap on the menu, customers may forgive themselves a little more for showing up at McDonald’s. And if they skip the wrap at the final moment and get a Big Mac and fries instead they don’t blame the restaurant.”

Now that’s a tremendous AHA moment for me in stealth marketing – almost like a Dynamic Stealth tactic in gaming.

As they say – It’s a reality of the fast-food business that what can be ordered in a few words, served up in seconds, and consumed in minutes is often the product of years of research and testing. Because the battlefield here is not in the restaurants, it’s not in the ingredients, it’s not in the fields where the ingredients are grow, it is after all in our minds. 

No wonder then you have battlefield tactics like stealth meant to lure you not just into making a decision but also into owning it.  How’s that for some food for thought?

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