McDonald’s Corporation is the world’s largest fast food chain, selling primarily hamburgers, chicken, french fries and carbonated drinks; and more recently salads, fruit and carrot sticks. The business was founded in 1940 with a restaurant opened by siblings Dick and Mac McDonald. It was their introduction of the “Speedee Service System” in 1948 that established the principles of the fast-food restaurant. However, the company today dates its “founding” to the opening of CEO Ray Kroc’s first franchised restaurant, the company’s ninth, in 1955. He opened his first McDonald’s in Des Plaines, Illinois in April 1955 (Wikipedia).
McDonald’s is one of the world’s largest brand for a reason. They take marketing communications seriously. McDonald’s spends billions of dollars with outside advertising and promotional agencies to communicate to its customers. According to Allison Perlik (2005), McDonald’s relies highly on targeted advertising and marketing communications and this is a central reason it is one of the world’s best-known brands. San Francisco-based researcher Interbrand ranked it 7th among the 100 most powerful brands in the world last year. It values the McDonald’s brand at $25 billion, up 1% (and up one notch in the ranking) from 2003 thanks to the chain’s sales rebound (Perlik, 2005).
McDonald’s has had its deepest impact as a marketer has been through the variety of its messages to consumers. Larry Light’s (McDonald’s Global Marketing Officer) term for the company’s marketing strategy is “brand journalism” which means telling different stories to several demographic groups through a variety of media, while ensuring that all those communications reinforce a single brand image. For decades, McDonald’s has simultaneously addressed kids, teens,
Marketing Communication McDonalds adults, moms, parents, grandparents, African Americans, Latinos, Asians and others with marketing meant to connect the brand with people’s lives (Perlik, 2005).
The most recent campaign the fastfood giant deployed is i’m lovin’ it. According to Wikepedia, this is an international branding campaign by primarily aimed at people aged 15-24. It was created by Heye & Partner, a longtime McDonald’s agency based in Unterhaching, Germany, near Munich, and a member of the DDB Worldwide Communications Group, Inc. It was the company’s first global advertising campaign and was launched in Munich, Germany on September 2, 2003, under the German title ich liebe es.
The English part of the campaign was launched on September 29, 2003 with the music of Tom Batoy and Franco Tortora (Mona Davis Music) and vocals by Justin Timberlake in which the slogan appears used in many of the introductory spots. The campaign is proving to be successful as it is being popularly used around the globe.
Another strategy the company has been carrying out is “standardization”. This means replicating its menu and look across the world. But the truth is that there always has been a restlessness at McDonald’s, leading it to explore variations in both menu and building style. It started in the 1960s when Ray Kroc began installing outdoor seating in new units, transforming what had been a drive-in concept to a restaurant.
Indoor seating, drive-thru windows, play areas for kids and other modifications followed. Limited-menu kiosks under such names as McSnack Spot, McTreat Spot and McStop have been tested with varying success. In the last 15 years, changes in consumer eating habits and in the restaurant industry have led McDonald’s to test some radical departures from its standard design (Perlik, 2005).
Marketing Communication McDonalds
The span of McDonald’s target market is very wide. As mentioned above, McDonald’s reaches different age brackets through the use of “brand journalism”. For instance, they had a tagline “You need a Break”. This is intended for adults who are busy working and are looking for a happy time, and McDonald’s delivers that. There are a number of reasons why people love McDonald’s and why they have served millions of burgers to millions of people. It could be that people still want their food fast and instantly, without sacrificing the taste, and at the same time, having fun. For the kids, they love the characters and definitely, the happy meal. This toy inside a meal is one of the most successful promotional strategies of McDonald’s.
Its competitors like Carl’s Jr. and Burger King have directed advertising towards a different demographic – young teenage and college-age men – with trendy, often sexualised, imagery and messages that target men’s supposed desire for large, meat-filled burgers and rich, satisfying food. In 2005, for example, Carl’s Jr. debuted a controversial ad featuring a bikini-clad Paris Hilton writhing sensuously on an expensive Bentley luxury car while enjoying a large burger. The ad provoked outrage from a number of groups, but Carl’s Jr. sales climbed impressively (Wikipedia).
Others may try but no one beats McDonald’s in being able to serve both kids and adults. The company, unlike Carl’s Jr. and Burger King, need not choose which specific market to serve. However, the culture of healthy eating is becoming a threat to fast food chains, even our giant McDonald’s. All of a sudden the country has gone into ‘health’ overdrive. The government published a White Paper called “Choosing Health”, that revealed their plans to invest money into better advertising campaigns promoting healthy eating in children. Unsurprisingly, Z-lists celebrities jumped on the band wagon and have either released a book or a workout video (Goldie, 2006). Goldie adds that as a result of this ongoing obesity debate, McDonald’s and the fast-food
Marketing Communication McDonalds industry as a whole saw itself on the receiving end of negative publicity and suffered major criticism for providing unhealthy food. 2004 was the first year McDonald’s announced a loss in profits, coinciding with the release of the film documentary “Super Size Me” in July. The film follows the journey of Morgan Spurlock, who set out to discover the implications of eating nothing but Maccy D’s for a whole month, following three rules: he could only eat what was available, no super-sizing unless offered, and he had to eat every item on the menu at least once.
Although the healthy eating trend is posing a threat to McDonald’s, Ronald and his friends are here to stay. I believe that McDonald’s marketing communications spears through this trend and reaches the hearts and palettes of millions of kids and adults worldwide through their campaigns. McDonald’s successfully gives us a reason every now and then why we should go there and bring our kids with us. It is not only food that people love in McDonald’s but the culture, feeling, and happiness that it has seeded for the past 50 years in millions of kids and kids at heart.
Perlik, A 2005, ‘Redefining McDonald’s’, Rimag.com, viewed 12 December 2006, < http://www.rimag.com/archives/2005/03a/design.asp>.
Perlik, A 2005, ‘McDonald’s 50th: Marketing’, Rimag.com, viewed 12 December 2006, < http://www.rimag.com/archives/2005/03a/marketing.asp>.
Goldie, C 2004, ‘McDonalds, healthy eating, and the Happy Meal of the future’, Public Sphere, 12 December 2006, <http://publicsphere.typepad.com/behindthespin/2006/02/mcdonalds_healt.html>.
‘McDonalds’, Wikipedia, 12 December 2006, <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/McDonald%27s>.
‘Im lovin it’, Wikipedia, 12 December 2006, <http://en.wikip