Big Data on Big Macs

Analyzing the social conversation about Big Macs

McDonald’s offers 145 menu items ranging from Chicken McNuggets to Frozen Strawberry Lemonade, but there is one offering that stands out from the crowd: the Big Mac. Created by Jim Delligatti, the Big Mac made its debut in 1967 in a suburb of Pittsburgh, and has been a staple of the chain’s menu ever since.
Between 1967 and 2017, much has changed—landlines have been largely replaced by cellphones, Bruno Mars dominates the commercial airwaves instead of the Beatles, and the salads featuring Jell-O that were so popular in the 1960s have fallen by the wayside. Yet, the Big Mac has stood the test of time. As a longstanding staple not just of the McDonald’s menu, but of American culture as a whole, the Big Mac has undergone some changes—new sauces, new sizes, and new celebrity fans, to name a few.
We looked at the social media conversation to help us identify and understand Big Mac’s major moments over the years.

Back to Big Mac Basics

Looking at the Big Mac discussion from 2010 to 2016, we see that 2012 was responsible for the most Big Mac mentions on social media. After peaking in 2012, the conversation volume for Big Mac has decreased each year.

The predominant emotion for Big Mac is joy, with 28 percent share of voice. No matter what time of the day you eat a Big Mac, it is always a treat. Frequently enjoyed with friends, the social component of the Big Mac contributes to the joy. People also share their custom Big Mac orders. 
Closely following joy is disgust, representing 25 percent of the conversation. Not everyone is in love with Big Macs, calling it “gross.” Anger closely follows disgust, with 24 percent share of voice. Sometimes, customers are dissatisfied with their orders, calling their Big Mac “sloppy.” Sadness makes up 20 percent share of voice. Sometimes, people express sadness over not getting a Big Mac. Fear is the least dominant emotion, with only 4 percent share of voice.

When people order a Big Mac, they tend to complement it with other McDonald’s items. But which ones?
There are many foods that people pair with their Big Mac. The most common combination is Big Mac with french fries, making up 41 percent of the discussion. Big Mac Sauce is also prominent in the discussion, with 30 percent share of voice.

The discussion on Big Mac shifted throughout the years. For these word clouds, we looked at the words unique to each year to pinpoint evolving consumer discussion. In 2011, supersize was still highly discussed. In 2012, people similarly discussed the supersize aspect. They also wove McDonald’s into jokes, frequently retweeting @menshumor. In 2013, people discussed commercials. In 2014, celebrities’ Big Mac tweets were frequently retweeted. People also expressed concerns over health, indicated by the word “fatty.” In 2015, Anna Kendrick was the most prominent celebrity. People also discussed comparative foods like burritos from Chipotle. 2016 was the year with the most discussion topics unique to a certain year.

Top Big Mac Moments

  • In 2012, the Big Mac Index (a method to compare international currency value) was republished by The Economist. First published in 1986, the Big Mac Index pops up in discussion about macroeconomics.
  • New Big Mac sizes, the Grand Mac and Mac Jr., debuted on Jan. 26, 2017.
  • Jim Delligatti, the creator of the Big Mac, died on Nov. 28, 2016.
  • Retired prison guard Don Gorske holds the record for most Big Macs eaten. He ate his 25,000th Big Mac on May 17, 2011.
  • Big Mac ATMS were introduced to Boston on Jan. 31, 2017, generating a frenzy among Big Mac fans. 

  • Big Mac Sauce is an integral component to the Big Mac. When McDonald’s announced on July 13, 2017 that Sriracha Sauce will be available, consumers responded enthusiastically.

Big Mac Audience

More males (57%) discuss Big Mac than females (43%).

Over half of the Big Mac discussion is generated by those 18-24.


With 50 years as an American icon, conversation about the Big Mac has changed over time. Amplified by social media, consumers are especially vocal about their opinions about the Big Mac.

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