McDonald's Forges Irn Link

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McDonald's forges Irn link

Fast food multinational McDonald's has abandoned its UK "no alien brands" policy and let AG Barr's Irn Bru get a foot-hold where Coca-Cola and Pepsi have failed.

The Irn Bru brand is this week on sale in McDonald's outlets across the country, ending years of opposition to outside brands which might steal its own thunder.

McDonald's vice-president and chief of marketing Michael Hayden this week moved fast to play down the link. Irn Bru is being tested in just one southern outlet, he says, after a separate trial in Scotland. "It's on a trial basis - that's all I will say."

But McDonald's central UK distributor told Marketing that 17 outlets in the north of England and ten in the south now stock the brand. And a source reveals the possible roll-out of Irn Bru across McDonald's 370 UK outlets is "in its very early stages".

Mystery surrounds McDonald's intentions. Has it really softened its opposition? Or could it be a crafty preclude to an outright takeover of the quirky Scots-based brand?

One fact is certain: Barr is cock-a-hoop. "Naturally we are delighted with the link-up," says marketing director Richard Stothert. "It's terrific exposure for the brand."

McDonald's is the biggest fast food chain in the UK and its core market of 15 to 24-year-olds is identical to Irn Bru's.

He maintains Irn Bru offers the chain "a point of difference" from rivals. "Our off-beat TV ads seem to appeal to them," he says.

AG Barr first started promoting Irn Bru south of the border last year, when it ran a national TV campaign. A new campaign went on air last month parodying Pepsi ads as a way of positioning the drink as the "anti-hero" of soft drinks.

Hayden is cagey about McDonald's intentions. "In a situation where there is an applicable branded product, we would not preclude selling it," he says. "But generally our products are produced to formula and we don't consider outside brands."

When McDonald's originally came to the UK in 1974, Hayden points out, it sold Coke - but only for a couple of years. "We tried our own syrup mix on a test basis which proved successful, so we continued with it. …