McDonald’s Comeback: Bigger, Better, Healthier

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McDonald’s is regarded as one of the biggest global fast-food chains. Unfortunately for them, this makes them a big target for critics. The company now hopes to change that through a whole new image.

In 2004, “Super Size Me” was released. This Oscar-nominated documentary painted a grim picture of McDonald’s and their menu’s effect on your health. While this has been the most famous and publicised reputation killer for them, it certainly hasn’t been the only one. In the past year, the company has been pummelled with criticism over its menu, marketing and role in America’s obesity crisis. Then, there was their most recent PR disaster on Twitter.

Hashtag Hijacking

In January McDonald’s launched a new initiative on Twitter. Using the social media site, they paid to appear at the top of the trends list to drive people to watch their new commercials which feature some of the farmers and ranchers who supply ingredients to McDonald’s. These commercials were designed to make McDonald’s look like it was about good, real food and much more than a fast food company.

While this Twitter campaign started well with the hashtag #MeetTheFarmers driving traffic to the videos, it was when McDonald’s social media director, Rick Wion, moved the conversation to the hashtag #McDStories that things began to go wrong.

It was an effort to keep people talking about the company and sharing their positive experiences, however Twitter users began using #McDStories to share their “horror” stories about the company. There were harsh opinions on their food, their service and even the atmosphere of the franchises. This carried on for an hour before Wion pulled the hashtag off of the Twitter home page.

Fighting Back

It seems though that McDonald’s has had enough. Despite achieving bottom-line success unmatched by its competitors in recent years, McDonald’s now hopes to convince the cynics that they’re wrong about the company.

One way the company plans on changing this perception is through their food – by improving it and changing the way consumers think about the food. “We’re serving 28 million people every single day; there are a lot of consumers that love what we’re serving. But we believe that they would come more frequently. We also believe that there are more people that would want to come – if they could feel better about the product,” said Neil Golden, the company’s American chief marketing officer, in a recent interview.

It’s not just the food that is changing either. McDonald’s is getting a complete image revamp with their restaurant remodelling. Some restaurants now feature Wi-Fi, solar panels, eco-friendly LED lights and even TVs playing the McDonald’s Channel which features content that is warm and youthful.

These seemingly minor changes have seen a vast improvement in sales in some franchises. In recent years, 3,000 franchises in the U.S. have been redesigned and on average, these restaurants have seen a six to seven percent increase in sales.

Taking on the Blogosphere

The new items on the menu and the revamped restaurants are all well and good to reach a wider audience, but McDonald’s also wanted to reach out to a more specific market – mothers.

In 2010, the company invited 15 mom bloggers to visit their headquarters in Oak Brook. They paid for all of their expenses and gave them a grand tour of the premises. While this may seem like a lot of money to spend on just a few mothers, there was a basic strategy at play. Bloggers can have large and more importantly, loyal, readers who respect what they have to say. The fact that they’re mothers is also important: Mothers are often the most health conscious when it comes to food and are regarded as major influencers.

McDonald’s decided to invite them to look behind the scenes and, hopefully, like what they see. If they did, they could then write about it and the company would be reaching people through someone they trust, rather than the advertisement campaigns more and more people are slowly becoming wary of. The gambit seems to have paid off as most of the bloggers came away with positive reports.

McDonald’s haven’t won the battle yet, there are and always will be cynics out there, but they are proving that they have a lot of fight in them and will do what’s necessary to keep themselves ahead of their competitors.

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