McDonald’s Articulates Its Brand Promise
By Carol Spieckerman, President, newmarketbuilders
In 1948, McDonald’s established
the principle upon which fast food restaurants are built by instituting its "Speedee
Service System." However, as
Matt Biespiel, senior director of global brand strategy, told the Private Brand
Movement Conference in Chicago this week, the company’s biggest challenge is
bridging the gap between what McDonald’s is known for and what it stands for
— and to do so consistently and globally.
McDonald’s is in the midst of the
biggest transformation in store architecture, packaging, and messaging the
company has ever undertaken, and if they get it right, customers will be saying "I’m
lovin’ it" in more than fifty
languages, in 32,000 stores, and in 118 countries.
The company is known for offering
choices and for being playful and optimistic, according to Mr. Biespiel, but
those messages haven’t provided a strong enough focus. Management determined
that enjoyment — and more specifically, "simple,
easy enjoyment" — is an own-able and differentiated brand promise that
will get to "the heart of the brand," though only if it represents "more
than just words."
Some of the key elements of McDonald’s plan for making
that happen include:
Store Architecture and Upkeep: The emphasis is shifting from "more
is better" to "less is more." Using crisp word marks and having
everything in its place will demonstrate a renewed "sense of confidence." The
old version of a McDonald’s store refresh was to apply a new coat of exterior
paint every 15 years. Upgrades now involve repainting exteriors every seven-to-10
years and redesigning interiors every five years. It’s a change franchisees must
adapt to, but results have been positive in the reimaged stores, helping make
the accelerated schedules more palatable.
Improved Perception of Quality: The "outdated" perception of
McDonald’s quality has been a continuing "headwind," but the company
has been working to enhance its appetite appeal and to create intimacy through
close-up photography vs. full product shots. At one time, showing sesame seeds
that had tumbled off a bun was considered a sacrilege, but now it’s seen as a
sales tactic. McDonald’s revisited its packaging with the mindset that, unlike
consumer products, packaging doesn’t sell — it provides reassurance. It’s the
one thing every customer sees and interacts with, whether at the drive-through
window, while eating in, or when receiving a delivery.
Employee Brand Engagement: With a 70 percent turnover rate among its
1.6 million restaurant employees, maintaining brand consistency among these "ambassadors" represents
another opportunity. Incorporating "brand modules" into training will
drive brand experience continuity among employees, helping them better understand
the "simple, easy enjoyment" premise.
Streamlined Menu Boards: Menu boards are both "money-making machines" and
a problem. McDonald’s knows that too many choices can create an overwhelming
visual presentation — exactly the opposite of the "simple, easy enjoyment" concept.
McDonald’s simplified menu boards make decision-making easy and are designed
to drive additional transactions.
Increased Automation: McDonald’s has been testing ordering kiosks in
selected markets, and early results have been promising. The average check
is up $2.00 in U.S. kiosks and £3 in Britain. McDonald’s has learned that customers
want to be in control, and they will spend more to get it.
Consistent Store Merchandising: McDonald’s is looking at store merchandising
from a new perspective as well. Rather than planning each promotion as a single
event, they are driving visual continuity in order to present a "unified
Discussion Questions: Of the tactics mentioned in the article, which ones
will do the most to deliver on McDonald’s "simple, easy enjoyment" brand
promise? What challenges does its global reach present?