The reason people are buying Travis Scott's McDonald's meal isn't what you think

The new Travis Scott meal at McDonald's has been a resounding success. The Cactus Jack, as it's called, after the hip-hop star's nickname and record label, might not be the runaway hit that the Popeye's new chicken sandwich was in 2019. After all, people loved that sandwich so much they bought up a 10-week supply of chicken in eight days, and the sandwich had to be pulled off the menu for a while (via Shorty Awards). 

But the popularity of the Cactus Jack — a Quarter Pounder with cheese, bacon, and lettuce; fries with barbecue sauce; and a Sprite — has caused some McDonald's stores to temporarily run out of key ingredients (via CNBC). Reports in the media, including MyRecipes, attribute the success of the $6 meal to the immense popularity of the musical artist it's named after.

McDonald's executives certainly expected the collaboration to work for that very reason. The company's chief marketing officer, Morgan Flatley, admitted that to remain relevant, McDonald's needs celebrities with Scott's social-media power and youth appeal (via Business Insider). "Travis Scott is the definition of big in culture," Flatley said.

Price made the Travis Scott meal a hit, not marketing

But Michael Miraflor wondered out loud, on Twitter, whether this was the real reason people are snatching up the Travis Scott meal. Miraflor is a marketing consultant and something of a social-media influencer himself. (He has 9,180 Twitter followers. Travis Scott has 9.2 million.) Miraflor had the attention of his followers on September 16, though, when he wrote a Twitter thread about McDonald's celebrity-endorsed meal. He didn't think celebrity was the reason the meal was selling — instead, he thought it was the price.

Miraflor was wearing his marketing-expert hat when he got in line at a Brooklyn McDonald's recently to order a Travis Scott meal for himself. A mother in front of him ordered four of the meals to go. She didn't tell him celebrity clout inspired her choice. "I'm buying this meal because it's the least expensive combo on the menu," is what Miraflor said she told him. Miraflor then watched a few more people order their meals at the Bed-Stuy McDonald's and decided that asking for the Travis Scott meal was a "cheat code for an affordable meal for people in this community. This is not a rich neighborhood."

The $6 price on the Travis Scott meal will only be available on the app

Could it be the Travis Scott meal is selling out simply because it's so cheap? A few people in Brooklyn ordering the meal doesn't qualify as a trend. If you want to see a trend, search #travisscottburger on TikTok. You'll see teenagers try to come up with creative, often irritating ways to order the Travis Scott meal, with many of them involving playing the artist's music at high volume. Teenagers are so eager to go viral, they're even willing to hurt themselves to become TikTok famous (via Fox News). Given that, and considering that the most popular videos tagged with #travisscottburger have been viewed millions of times, it's safe to say the TikTok trend alone is responsible for quite a few sales.

But Miraflor might have a point. He pointed out in his Twitter thread that the Travis Scott meal comes at a 30 percent discount compared to a comparable Quarter Pounder combo. And McDonald's decided the best way to avoid future ingredient shortages was to stop offering the $6 price at those viral drive-thrus and only offer the low price through the McDonald's app (via USA Today). In any case, Miraflor said he was just glad that during a time of scarce jobs, families were able to find a fast-food meal for a good price.