I finally gave McDonald’s gourmet coffee a try today and my expectations were met. The flavor of my double latte was on par with Starbucks, while the cost was moderately priced. The reason I post this is that I find McDonald’s strategy to reinvent a portion of its brand offerings to be an important case study. It was a recent Wall Street Journal article on the high pricing of Starbucks that was the final impetus for me to give McDonald’s a try.

(On a side note: The Starbucks exec quoted in the story failed to acknowledge that many consumers, myself included, psychologically round prices up to the next dollar. For example, a latte for $4.06, including tax, in Manhattan is really a $5 latte, in my opinion, when one lacks spare change. Anyway, I digress).

Though McDonald’s has been reporting strong financials during a down economy, they launched their coffee strategy well before any signs of a recession. I first became intrigued when learning of it in late 2007 from another avid coffee drinker whom is based in Starbucks’ corporate backyard, Seattle. She emphatically endorsed that McDonald’s new coffee was truly good and much cheaper than Starbucks – and added that she was one of many other Seattle-based coffee drinkers coming to the same conclusion.

How does this relate to interactive marketing? Well, McDonald’s did the hard part first – they figured out how to deliver a consistently competitive product. Thus each and every time a “serious” coffee drinker gives them a chance, McDonald’s has a high chance of literally converting them. In my case, McDonald’s is now positioned in my mind as a viable substitute good when I desire quality coffee. Ironically, McDonald’s success reminds me of many failed online marketing campaigns that effectively led me to websites, but did not meet my expectations.