On 10th April 2016, McDonald’s Australia implemented the second phase of its ‘Create Your Taste’ promotion. The first phase was the introduction of a new self-service for customers who would order through a touch screen kiosk and personalize gourmet burgers with specialty ingredients (Figure 1). The second phase highlights the great lengths parents will go to for their children, whether allowing a dad to be made up by her daughter, jumping into a colour ball room which is impossible to escape or pretending to be a horse in a birthday party. The video promotion (Video clip 1) goes through familiar moments where a father has to tolerate pampering her little daughter and then ends up reminding parents that McDonald’s caters for everyone; a dad can indulge in his grown-up side by building burgers with gourmet ingredients.
Figure 1: McDonald’s Australia first phase of Create Your Taste (Source: stuff.co.nz)
Video clip 1: McDonald’s Australia second phase of Create Your Taste (Source: YouTube)
“It takes a brave client to buy a line like ‘How very unMcDonald’s’ and an even braver one to buy a spot with a big emotional story at its heart. There are some amazing universal truths about fathers and daughters and this spot really taps into them“, DDB Group Sydney CCO Toby Talbot said.
Branding only works when an organisation behaves and presents itself in a consistent way. Why was there a need for McDonald’s to re-position its brand? This blog will go through key milestones that helped McDonald’s develop its brand and then discuss McDonald’s new move to turn to automation and customisation.
2. McDonald’s brand creation background
Beginning as a small drive-in Bar-B-Q restaurant in San Bernardino, McDonald’s has undergone several milestones that influenced the creation of its brand:
- Good value for money: In 1948, McDonald’s lowers its hamburger price from 30 cents to 15 cents. There was a significant increase in the company’s profit and exit of competitors back then (Hokey & Hyesung 2011).
- Recognisable symbol: The Golden Arches becomes incorporate into the logo in 1962 (Love 1995).
- Values: In 1956, Fred Turner defines values such as quality, service and cleanliness in 1956 (Kincheloe 2002).
- Service efficiency: McDonald’s is able to complete a customers’ order within 90 seconds; the fastest fast food restaurant (Vignali 2001).
- Community service: The Hamburger University is setup in 1961 for McDonald’s employees who want to become managers. Such employees are at first encouraged to be involved in their community as much as possible (Kroc & Anderson 1987)
- Adaptability: McDonald’s introduces a learning environment that is open to new ideas in order to adapt to change in customer preferences (Ritzer 1993).
- Public relations: The first McDonald’s TV spot was aired in 1966 (Gilbert 2009).
- Family theme: Ronald McDonald is first introduced in the 1966 Macy´s Thanksgiving Day parade. (Kroc & Anderson 1987).
- Locations: Since 1967, McDonald’s can be found in any major city in the world (Vignali 2001)
- Advertising and marketing campaigns: In 1967, the Operators National Advertising Fund allowed McDonald to advertise in national television (Facella & Genn 2008).
- Positive brand association: Ray Kroc creates the Kroc Foundation in 1969 (Kroc & Anderson 1987).
- Alliances: Alliance with top brands like Walt Disney and Coca Cola help extend the company’s reach to the public (Kincheloe 2002).
- Uniformity: McDonald’s keeps the same taste of food all around the world. From 2008, all McDonald’s brands are the same (Schlosser 1998)
3. Re-positioning its brand now
The fast food giant has been battling negative food safety scandals from China and Japan. The first quarter 2016 saw a decline in revenue by 11% compared to first quarter 2015. Furthermore, the McDonald’s traditional brand is losing relevance to most Millennials who are health conscious.
Giving customers the freedom to build their own burger is one tactic McDonald’s is using to “become less McDonald’s”. The re-positioning of its brand renews relationship with its customers through empowerment and innovation. However, the Sydney Morning Herald labels the move as anti-branding or “a dress-up, hiding or at least minimising the company’s international origin”.
Carmela Soares of Huckleberry agency insists that it is a re-branding rather than anti-branding, claiming that McDonald’s is running a smart and massive strategy to shift some of the negative associations of their brand accumulated over the last decade.
The results? CMO of McDonald’s Mark Lolback sums it all up:
“We know based on the response we’ve had from those who’ve visited the stores we’ve transformed already, consumers are surprised to see McDonald’s offering gourmet ingredients and table service – and that as a result we’re attracting people who didn’t think McDonald’s was for them” (Mackenzie 2016).
It may be necessary for a firm to go through a rebranding exercise in order for customers to associate the brand with new expectations. A positive association of a brand is what marketers always strive for. McDonald’s bold move is indeed a smart one considering how customers nowadays are health-conscious and stiff competition in the fast food
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Gilbert, S. 2009. Built for Success: The story of McDonald´s. Mankato: Creative Education.
Hokey, M., Min H. 2011. “Benchmarking the Service Quality of Fast-food Restaurant Franchises in the USA: A Longitudinal Study.” Benchmarking: An International Journal 282 – 300, no. 18: 2.
Kincheloe, J. 2002. The Sign of the Burger: McDonald´s and the Culture of Power. Ed. Stanley Aronowitz. Philadelphia: Temple: University Press.
Kroc,R. , Anderson, R. 1987. Grinding It Out: The Making of McDonald´s. New York: St. Martin´s Press.
Love, J. 1995. McDonald´s: Behind the Arches. New York: Bantam.
Mackenzie, E. 2015. Was McDonald’s Build Your Own Burger a Marketing Clanger or Pattie Genius? retrieved 26th April 2016 < http://www.bandt.com.au/media/was-mcdonalds-build-your-own-burger-a-marketing-clanger-or-pattie-genius >
Ritzer, G. 1993. The McDonaldisation of society. Pine Forge Press.
Schlosser, E. 1998. Fast Food Nation: The True Cost of America´s Diet, retrieved 26th April 2016 < http://www.rollingstone.com/culture/news/fast-food-nation-part-one-the-true-cost-of-americas-diet-19980903 >
Vignali, C (2001) McDonald’s: “think global, act local” – the marketing mix. British Food Journal, 103 (2).