McDonald’s has seen its fair share of challenges in recent years. The rise of increasingly popular fast-casual competitors, the pink slime controversy and louder calls for healthier menu options from influencers and politicians alike.
McDonald’s responses to these challenges have been both good and bad. And by “both good and bad”, I meant to say “all bad”.
First, McDonald’s has responded to fast-casual competitors by imitating them. This imitation has been going on for years in many different forms, but as recently as December of 2014, McDonald’s rolled out a “build your own burger” pilot to 2000 stores in an attempt to draw consumers who favor the “build your own” fast casual experience back into McDonald’s restaurants with a program that, in theory, matches and even bests their competitor’s offerings. The thing about building your own burger at McD’s is that it is wholly at odds with the short wait times and lower prices that are at the core of McDonald’s brand.
Second, McDonald’s initially responded to the pink slime controversy with denial followed by repentance (not the most trust-inspiring move there) and they ultimately responded with a print and digital campaign, launched in q4 2014 and still active at the time this article was published, where they invite consumers into their meat processing factories to show them how their food is made. Here’s a video where they bring to their factory a high-school teacher who tweeted about how unpleasant a frozen McRib looked. In the video, they show the teacher how the McRib is made. It seems the power and truth of the saying “You don’t want to see how sausage gets made” seems lost on McDonald’s executives. Although the video may allay the fears of some, it does so while grossing out many others. Watch at your own risk.
Third, McDonald’s has responded to calls to incorporate healthier options into menus in grand fashion over a period of many years – and as a result, their menu is absolutely massive. Too big. By my count, there are more than 120 items on their menu. Such a large menu is an operational nightmare and it presents consumers with far too many options. Their menu is in dire need of rationalization.
At the heart of all these responses and at the heart of all of McDonald’s troubling financial reports over the past years is a poorly defined brand identity (for an ironic example of a company that we believe to have a strong and well-integrated brand identity, read our article here). McDonald’s, in seeking to be all things to all people (We’re fast casual! We’re transparent! We’re healthy! etc), has become less appealing to a significant many. I believe that their poorly defined brand identity is evident to most and is, in part, one of things that drove the CEO of McDonald’s to step down recently.
Mickey D’s poorly defined brand identity and all the decisions flowing from it are the reasons why everything in my being rejoiced when I saw this commercial (video embedded below) during NFL Wild Card weekend. It is appropriately titled “Unapologetic Big Mac”. I’ve included a transcript below the video if you would prefer to read rather than watch (we care about you here at Marketing Art Gallery, don’t you forget that).
All vegetarians, foodies and gastronauts kindly avert your eyes.
You can’t get Juiciness like this from soy or Quinoa (two all-beef patties).
This is not Greek yogurt (special sauce), nor will that ever be kale (Lettuce).
In its lifetime it won’t be deconstructed or infused.
And while it is massive, it’s ego is not and therefore, needs no introduction.
[transition to ‘lovin’ heart]
[Spoken in deep tones, not sung] ba da ba ba ba.
Corny and disingenuously humble ending aside (“it’s ego is not”? spoken jingle? seriously?? – I digress), I love this commercial. I love this commercial because in it, McDonald’s embraces who they are. At their core, McDonald’s *is* the Big Mac. And for McDonald’s, embracing who you are is also an embracing of “who you are not”. They’re not faddish health food. They’re not foodie food. They’re not greek yogurt. They’re not all the things that they’ve tried to be to adjust to the changing landscape. THEY’RE JUST NOT – and this commercial lays that fact bare.
My problem is with the fact that no one cares about this commercial. It has taken a back seat to a parallel campaign that McDonald’s is running.
McDonald’s “lovin campaign” (I doubt that this is the official name) has been most prominent in all of their marketing communication. In the first of two ads in the campaign, McDonald’s shows archenemies (eg Mailman & dog, Pac-Man & Ghost, Republican & Democrat etc) coming together and sharing a moment of love over McDonald’s. In the second ad in this campaign, their hugely popular superbowl ad, McDonald’s tells consumers that the cost of their meal will be sharing a moment of happiness or love with another (eg – “the cost of this meal is a phone call to your mother to tell her you love her”). The kicker (pun intended) with the Superbowl ad is that McDonald’s will randomly select guests to pay for their meals with expressions of love/happiness from Feb 1st through (wait for it) Valentine’s Day. Two weeks of lovin and huge YoY sales growth – but i’m not lovin it.
My concern is that this more popular “lovin” campaign only addresses a symptom of a larger problem at McDonald’s. That consumers are decreasingly choosing McDonald’s is a function of the overarching (pun intended – 2 in a row, i’m on a roll – also intended) brand identity problem that has informed the large majority of McDonald’s problems over the years. This company needs to know and also needs to communicate who they are and what they’re about. If McDonald’s continues down the path of being all things to all people, consumers will continue to find other places that know what they’re about .
The answer is simple and the Big Mac ad shows that someone at McDonald’s gets it, I just hope that McDonald’s executives are able to move past the somewhat nebulous idea of sharing “love” over McDonald’s food to the more concrete (and potentially more impactful) idea of sharing “love” over a much more tightly defined and focused McDonald’s. The first step would be to make communicating McDonald’s core brand identity the foundation of all future marketing communication – and nothing else. “Lovin” shouldn’t be the campaign, “Big Mackin” (or something like it) should be.
Share your thoughts in the comments.
Until Next Time