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How McDonald’s Used Zappi to Optimize Concepts Systematically with Faster, More Cost-Effective Research

Even a powerhouse like McDonald's can need help better understanding the competition. Learn how McDonald's was able to cut down on research time and receive more actionable results through concept testing.

Editor’s Note: Insights That Work is a showcase of how the GRIT Top 50 Most Innovative Suppliers create solutions to some of the biggest challenges in insights today. This year’s edition provides case studies on brands like Nestle, Shell, Frito-Lay, and more.


Innovation and creativity are key to sustained success in the competitive quick-service restaurant market. McDonald’s has a continual need to launch new products that stand out compared to incumbents and startups. As competition has increased, the insights team needed to find a way to test faster, more cost-effectively, in a systematic fashion, and to build up a body of learning to support internal customers’ decision-making and continuous learning.


McDonald’s and Zappi worked together to evolve concept testing in terms of speed, standard audiences, markets, and methodologies. McDonald’s has used the MARC Rapid Results tool on the Zappi platform to test new concept iterations. Key parts of the solution included creating a custom tagging taxonomy, which classifies concepts across a variety of metrics or attributes and building a set of custom benchmark norms, which put all of the results in context. These have enabled McDonald’s to conduct a meta-analysis of results across concepts.

For instance, the company analyzed test results from a large number of different category concepts in order to learn which factors were the strongest drivers of Activation Potential (an aggregate measure proven to be predictive of in-market behavior) and highlight those elements in messaging and new product development. All test results are curated in the Zappi platform, which is accessible to all internal customers, making this kind of analysis very easy.


  • More actionable results.
    • Previously, if tests showed that consumers didn’t like a particular attribute or feature, it wasn’t easy to go back in to see if improvements fixed the issue and impacted overall interest. With the Zappi solution, it is quick and easy to test a range of alternatives, make a decision, optimize, and move on.
  • A higher profile for the insights team.

    • The insights team spends less time creating decks, and more time working directly in cross-functional teams, driving business improvements. Matt Cahill says, “We’ve started to do more iterations of tests on the same concept, to make it better. We can fit in a round of consumer input at almost any phase in the process now, which makes us much more in demand with our crossfunctional partners.”

  • Doing more with less with systematic market research.

    • Because the Zappi solution is so cost-effective, McDonald’s can conduct many more tests than before. And with turnaround times for each test reduced from weeks to hours, the insights team has been able to shift the mindset of the organization so that testing has become seamlessly integrated into the innovation and advertising process.

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