Create an online food place for kids

June 20, 2012

A McDonald's Europe website for young children has drawn 1.8 million users. Should supermarkets follow this model?

What can supermarkets learn from McDonald’s Europe, which gave its Happy Meals brand an online play space called Happy Studio for kids between four and eight years old? (See the site at

First, The Lempert Report notes the impressionable age of the target audience, and the subtle brand nuances embedded in the website’s imagery. While the site has no ads, the Happy Meals boxes (without lettering, but with the unmistakable M arch as eyebrows) are prominent characters on the Happy Studio screen. 

Second, there is lots of educational and game activity to involve kids. And McDonald’s and its agency Fuel have taken steps to build parents’ confidence that this is a safe, bully-free online space where moms and dads can easily monitor what their children are doing. (See the parents page at

Third, any time spent on the site brings McDonald’s into the home, when the marquee brand wouldn’t normally be thought of. The more parents appreciate the extra teaching and entertainment provided by the site, the less resistant they’ll be to stopping at the eatery on one of their next car rides—and possibly the louder the command from the back seat.

An agency for Fuel says the site has had 1.8 million users since its launch last summer.

Should U.S. supermarkets consider modeling their own sub-sites for kids after this McDonald’s site—perhaps one that revolves around food games and knowledge, fitness, health and simple cooking at home? Yes, is our quick response. We believe sites like this could strengthen stores as destinations and potentially shape more productive shopping trips with less boredom and conflict when mom or dad brings the kids along; that could lead to bigger baskets.

In addition, these sites could help make the next generation smarter about their food choices, fitter, healthier, and more open to the breadth of foods they could grow up eating—instead of the usual kid mainstays.