McDonald’s Merchandise Magic


When we think about promotional toys, there aren’t many businesses that can compete with McDonald’s and what they’ve offered over the years. For many kids, they’ve almost become synonymous for their free toys as they have for the food itself.

So how did the toy craze come about and how has it evolved over time? We’ve looked further into it below.

The origins

When McDonald’s first introduced toys to their offering they were very much promotional tools for the brand itself. There was very little involvement from other businesses which meant that some of them lacked a degree of creativity and fun. Take for instance the McDonald’s restaurant set from 1969. While it was easy on the eye for that era, it was just a model McDonald’s restaurant, not much fun unless kids enjoyed playing out their trip to get a cheeseburger meal.

A close second to the restaurant set was the Ronald McDonald mask which looked more like something out of a horror movie than a friendly mask for children. They even failed to provide it with the eyes and mouth cut out making it that bit more terrifying.

Introduction of the Happy Meal

As the years progressed though the toys did eventually brighten up. A turning point within this was the introduction of the Happy Meal in 1979. This would go on to provide a real platform for popular kids’ brands to serve up their own toys as part of the Happy Meal experience. It’s fair to say it worked pretty well, giving children an added incentive to tuck into a McDonald’s meal.

The popularity of the Happy Meal has drawn in some of the biggest brands over the years. From Disney to Lego, we’ve seen a whole host of characters make their way into the Happy Meal boxes. These days the added branding and printing space on the packaging grants brands even more exposure and allows them to better communicate with children.

More than just a toy

The Happy Meal toy has proven to be more than just a few hours of fun for some dedicated collectors. While many played with and forgot about their toy, others kept them safe and have continued to amount a whole host of items to their collection. Mike Fountaine, who’s thought to have the world’s largest collection of McDonald’s memorabilia, has every Happy Meal toy from 1979-2005. That’s also just a small glimpse of his collection as it stretches way beyond Happy Meal toys into all the other McDonald’s merchandise which have been offered over the years. Granted Mr Fountaine is an extreme case, and is also aided by the fact he owns 2 McDonald’s franchises, however he isn’t alone in being a collector. There are plenty of others who have spent years amassing a range of McDonald’s freebies. A quick browse on eBay also throws up results of people who have clearly spent time collecting the toys and are now looking to get rid of them for a lump sum of money.

Final words

It’s great to see promotional toys still play their role till this day for McDonald’s. However, it doesn’t just stop there for them. They’re constantly also offering a number of other limited edition promotional products such as branded glasses. The onus they continue to pay on promotional items just goes to show how significant they remain.

If you and your business would like to incorporate branded freebies in to your promotions then be sure to get in touch, we’re always open to helping you find the perfect items for your needs.