Over the past few years McDonald’s has been taking steps towards
revamping its brand. Specifically, the
global fast-food chain has been working hard to increase transparency
and engagement, and to dispel
negative perceptions on their food.
McDonald’s formally announced this shift in brand
vision at the start of 2015.
In the past year-and-a-half, McDonald’s has continued, and
expanded upon, initial campaigns.
Recently, the world’s largest hamburger fast-food chain teamed up with
celebrity chef Neal Fraser as part of their campaign to improve public
perceptions about the quality of their food.
ad spot opens with text: “Does McDonald’s even sell real food?” Chef Fraser proceeds to serve up a 5-course
meal for L.A. influencers; the meal was created from McDonald’s ingredients
unbeknownst to the Los Angeles foodies.
As the video goes on it becomes increasingly apparent that the
influencers are thoroughly enjoying their food—the end of the spot showcases
quotes from the influencers, with words like “amazing,” “perfect,” and
“extravagant” being used to describe Chef Fraser’s meal. It isn’t until the McDonald’s logo is seen at
the bottom of a dish that the influencers realize they’ve been duped.
The big reveal is supposed to illustrate, to the influencers and
the public, that McDonald’s does use “real” ingredients—gone are the days of
pink slime and freezer-burned chicken nuggets.
The video attempts to paint the negative perceptions surrounding
McDonald’s ingredients and quality of food as unwarranted and unfounded. However, McDonald’s simply falls short in
their attempt for a few reasons.
- There’s a fundamental difference between food
prepared by an acclaimed celebrity chef and fast-food prepared at a local
McDonald’s. Towards the beginning of the
video, Chef Fraser acknowledges that “if you have great ingredients and a
cutting board and a butane burner you can make some stuff happen.” That might be true for him, a world-class
chef, but for the employees at a local McDonald’s it might not be the case. Are we supposed to believe that the average
McDonald’s employee takes the time and the care to prepare each and every meal
just as Chef Fraser?
- The fact that the Los Angeles influencers
enjoy the way Chef Fraser’s food tastes does little to dispel the notion that
McDonald’s’ ingredients are sub-par. As
anybody can tell you, oftentimes the best-tasting foods are the least
healthy. Even if you give Chef Fraser
and his meal the benefit of the doubt, McDonald’s doesn’t really address the
nutritional aspect of their food in their reveal. They missed an opportunity here.
- McDonald’s contradicts themselves, or at the
very least, misleads viewers. There’s an
instance in the reveal where McDonald’s showcases Chef Fraser’s meatballs, made
from the same ground beef that the fast-food giant uses in their burgers. The image of the meatballs are accompanied by
text that reads “100% ground beef” (nope, no fillers). But in their earlier “Our Food, Your
Questions” campaign addressed their beef: “Most of the cattle we get our beef
from are treated with added hormones, a common practice in the U.S. that
ranchers use to promote growth.”
Fillers? Maybe not. Hormone additives? Apparently so. McDonald’s shouldn’t explicitly mislead
consumers. It doesn’t aid their
transparency and engagement revamp.
- McDonald’s might be trying too hard to revamp
their brand, rather than playing to their strengths. It’s a fact that McDonald’s is the world’s
largest hamburger fast-food chain; they’re not a restaurant, let alone a 5-star
one. McDonald’s’ earlier reveal where
they gave unknowing consumers chicken sandwiches—their own—out of a food cart
worked better. They gave consumers an
item that they actually sell, and got them to admit that it tasted delicious
independently of the fact that it was a McDonald’s sandwich.
- McDonald’s’ recent campaigns seem more intent
on improving their standing with consumers than actually showing consumers that
they’re committed to making a difference.
McDonald’s isn’t only one of the largest fast-food chains in the
globe—they’re one of the largest, most powerful brands, and their decisions
have tremendous pull. Rather than
attempting to show consumers that their food is “real,” why doesn’t McDonald’s
just definitively use “real” food? Why
don’t they improve the living conditions of animals that they use for product,
and remove artificial additives? They’ve
got something similar in place in Europe (how they treat their chickens in
captivity), and it hasn’t hurt their overall business. McDonald’s wields tremendous influence, and
showing a little bit of character would go a longer way for their brand and
their bottom dollar than superficial commercials and ad spots.
Part of what makes McDonald’s unique is their brand heritage.
While rebrands are oftentimes necessary in the evolution of a brand, do they
really need to communicate that they’re doing a 180?
There is something to be
said for embracing your heritage as a brand. Marketing Maven recommends doing
consumer sentiment analysis as they roll out new concepts so they keep their
finger on the pulse of the consumer and can quickly pivot when they go too far.
Contributor: Jack Haandraadts, Account Coordinator at Marketing Maven