Why I’m Not Buying McDonald’s Branding Shift

As the national and global populations have become increasingly aware of the benefits of healthy eating, fast food chains have had to find ways to re-invent themselves to remain viable. But perhaps no chain has been hit harder by this shift in public consciousness than McDonald’s, which has seen its sales plummet quarter after quarter in recent years, most recently in the second three months of 2015, when earnings fell another 10 percent.


The fast food juggernaut has tried a host of solutions in an attempt to get sales back on track, including making leadership changes; adding new menu items; re-inventing the Hamburglar; and closing low-performing stores. McDonald’s most recent attempt at changing its perception was opening a one-night-only, fancier pop-up restaurant in Tokyo called Restaurant M. The goal for this marketing event—which included a five-course meal and white tablecloth—was to publicize its newly launched summer menu, featuring fresh vegetable items.

Personally, I have not been lured back to McDonald’s, a dining favorite in my childhood, by any of these campaigns or tactics; judging by the company’s freefalling sales, I am obviously not alone. For me, the reason is simple—the company hasn’t gone nearly far enough. What I see from McDonald’s is not an earnest attempt at a re-brand, but rather a mess of siloed efforts that seem to be a dressed up—but not transformed—version of the company’s messaging and products.

Take, for example, a look at the chain’s list of burgers and sandwiches and its website. By my count, you have to look at 13 items before getting to anything that could pass as moderately healthy. Even the majority of the wraps listed on the page, presented as healthier options include bacon, ranch dressing or both. I like bacon cheeseburgers as much as the next guy, but if the idea is to change perception, this doesn’t seem like the way to do it.

The salad menu page is equally perplexing. The list includes 10 salads and nine of those 10 are called “premium” items, excluding only the side salad. To my mind, if everything on the menu is listed as “premium,” chances are that nothing actually qualifies as such.

My point in writing this post is not to pick on McDonald’s, although it may seem that way. I am simply using this as an example of an issue we often see with our clients. If some aspect of your brand strategy or marketing efforts is consistently falling short of your stated goals, sometimes the only way to escape the doldrums is drastic action.

For instance, if your website metrics have steadily declined for the past six months, renaming two tabs is unlikely to move the needle. In fact, you may need a new design and fresh copy on your home and subpages. Yes, these changes take more time than quick fixes, but they are also far more likely to actually work. So the question you have to ask yourself is whether you want to spend a little time to make small tweaks that will have no noticeable impact—or exert more effort and make changes that will.

Need help getting your branding jump started? Reach out today!

eric-e1412094737376Known around the office as the unofficial (or official if you ask him) “Content Boost Mayor,” Eric Lebowitz is one of Content Boost’s Digital Content Editors. Before joining the team, Eric worked in development at the Child Guidance Center of Southern Connecticut in Stamford, Connecticut, and “Golf Digest Magazine.” With experience in account management and content creation, Eric has helped dozens of clients bolster their Web traffic and customer acquisition.  When he’s not cracking jokes in the cubes, you can find him on the golf course working on his handicap. He’s also a recent newlywed. Eric earned his Bachelor of Arts and Sciences in Journalism from Purchase College in Purchase, New York.