Sharing the Real, Live Love With McDonald’s

Discussion
Jun 14, 2012

McDonald’s U.K. wants to engage with customers in a dialogue about the business. They want to know what people think, to encourage questions and provide answers. Psfk.com describes the new U.K.-based website, What Makes McDonald’s?, as an extension of previous attempts at transparency.

As Psfk.com points out, the site provides "articles and videos going behind the scenes … including information on food sourcing, its environmental contribution and charitable activities." Under heading "Our News, Your Views," discussions cover subjects labeled "Our Food," "Behind the Job," "London 2012," "Planet" and "Good Causes".

Comments and questions are encouraged as well as sharing on Facebook and Twitter. Links with organizations such as the Marine Stewardship Council, Football Association, and Compassion in World Farming are highlighted.

McDonald’s U.K. marketing VP Alastair Macrow said in a press release, "Over the last few years, we’ve worked hard to open up our business, both on- and offline. However, there are still lots of myths out there about McDonald’s, and lots of things that people simply don’t know about us."

Engaging through the direct channel of social media will bring the company closer to its customers, he added.

The new site builds on another site, makeupyourownmind.co.uk, launched by McDonald’s in 2007. McDonald’s’ claims more than 25,000 questions from the public have been answered since then. Its Facebook page, launched in 2011, has "more than 229,000 fans and is playing a key role in embedding digital and social media engagement into McDonald’s marketing and communications strategy."

The May 15 launch could be seen as coincidence, as critics (including doctors) have protested about McDonald’s sponsorship of the Olympics. Objections reported by AP and various British newspapers have ranged from concerns about conflicting messages from a company selling less than healthy food to concerns over stringent anti-competition conditions.

It seems McDonald’s wants to get cosy with its customers, and show that both the company and its customers are truly lovin’ it. Perhaps in view of its Olympics sponsorship, the site is primarily geared towards a British audience, but it begs the question, why do they feel the need to make such a concerted effort on top of the megabucks being invested in The Games?

Discussion questions: To what degree is transparency becoming more important for restaurants and food sellers in general? How important is it for McDonald’s to set up a site for Americans offering similar levels of transparency and opportunity for discussion?

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12 Comments on "Sharing the Real, Live Love With McDonald’s"


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Ryan Mathews
Guest
9 years 11 months ago
The real question ought to be, “How transparent is transparent and how interactive is interactive?” Transparency is critical from a consumer’s point of view but it won’t necessarily lead to increased sales. Here are a couple of examples. How much chicken do you think would be sold if customers could “click in,” in real time, and monitor the day-to-day operation of a chicken plant? How much “organic” produce would be sold every year if people really understood what things can be added, sprayed, etc on to food and still allow it to retain its organic label? How much produce would be sold if consumers got to observe real harvest conditions? And, with a nod to ballparks, backyards and camp outs everywhere, who would eat a hot dog if they first had to watch a video of how it was made, pre-colored emulsion and all? Now, with regard to McDonald’s in particular, would “transparency” include a “reality television” look at sanitation practices of minimum wage workers? Or an open discussion of the theories explored by best-selling… Read more »
Max Goldberg
Guest
9 years 11 months ago

Transparency is important in any business. The more consumers know and have the ability to ask questions, and have those questions answered, the more they can identify with the brand, and the more content the brand has to use on its website and social sites.

I’d like to see McD offer similar levels of engagement in the US and other countries.

Joel Rubinson
Guest
9 years 11 months ago

I think that mystarbucksidea.com is the standard for this and is viewed as a great success. It is certainly consistent with the access that people expect to have, with this idea going back to the cluetrain manifesto in 1999.

Richard J. George, Ph.D.
Guest
9 years 11 months ago

Unfortunately, many customers do not fully trust their product or service providers, in this case, McDonald’s. Generally, a lack of trust is the result of a lack of understanding of another entity or person. How do you enhance understanding and increase trust? By increasing engagement and transparency. The McDonald’s move is a bold one. The key will be the development of consumer trust once more engaged and benefiting from a transparent view.

Matthew Keylock
Guest
Matthew Keylock
9 years 11 months ago

Transparency is becoming a lot more important. Even for Apple.

Some brands have a lot to do to get beyond the “how do I know you are telling the truth?” doubt in consumers minds. A sustained cultural shift to be more open, inclusive and demonstrate integrity will help, especially if employees reflect the change and customers experience it in every interaction.

David Slavick
Guest
David Slavick
9 years 11 months ago

You either dive into the pool or not. Don’t put your toe in the water. The word transparency is the key here — it’s true meaning is just that transparent with no limitations. Read Fast Food Nation, by Eric Schlosser and then attempt to have an informed dialogue with any operator in the space. Allowing for an exchange of ideas and a forum for dialogue is healthy. Let’s hope it brings more of the same to the menu. By the way, if you really want an eye-opener, when in California, go to a McD’s or any fast food operator in particular and see the calorie counts on the menu board.

Camille P. Schuster, Ph.D.
Guest
9 years 11 months ago

This article gives the impression the site is answering questions. That is not transparency; that is interaction. If McDonald’s really means transparency they need another approach and that may not be helpful (see Ryan’s response). If McDonald’s means learning what consumers are thinking how are they taking this information, putting it into an accessible format, and using it it to adapt their strategies and tactics? If McDonald’s means interaction – how are they carrying on a dialogue with the consumers who ask questions? Gathering comments is the first step. What McDonald’s does with the information is also important for determining usefulness and success.

Al McClain
Guest
Al McClain
9 years 11 months ago

This is a nice, modest, PR effort. It’s basically a site to tout initiaves beyond burgers and fries, that they think will resonate in a positive way with consumers, or help deflect criticism in other areas. Judging from the comments, it is not a site where they want to engage with consumers. There is only one comment posted on the 2012 Olympics, which makes it clear that they are not posting what really comes in.

Just a nice PR site, with no real engagement or transparency, except in areas where they want to showcase their “transparency.” No big benefits, but done at minimal cost.

Lee Peterson
Guest
9 years 11 months ago

It’s great to get feedback from customers and ask what they think, but you still have to LEAD. Customers can tell you what they know, but in terms of new, fresh ideas, I’m sorry, but you’re going to have to do that yourself.

IMO, feedback is best for testing; ‘how do you like this?’, but for new ideas, not so much.

Lee Kent
Guest
9 years 11 months ago

I happen to love what McDonald’s is doing. Putting their Chef out front and center, talking about their sourcing, how they prepare food,putting down the myths. It shows that they are indeed listening and want to give the public what they want. Any retailer in any area would benefit in finding ways to show their customers the same thing.

Carlos Arámbula
Guest
9 years 11 months ago
Transparency is part of the price of entry for any domestic food seller. The critical aspect to consumers is who provides the clarity; the restaurant or the consumer advocate. The consumer’s perception of McDonald’s outside of the US is different. Domestically, McDonald’s is almost a rite of passage; a first job for teenagers, a hangout after school, a gathering place after little league games and so forth. For every negative publicity item, there are positive contributions to the community like the corporate Ronald McDonald charities and the local franchisee school fund-raising nights. For all the attacks on McDonald’s we, domestically, are also very forgiving of the golden arches and assign responsibility to the consumer as a willing customer. Add to all of the aforementioned, our trust, conscious or not, on government agencies regulating business. The short answer to whether McDonald’s should have a domestic program similar to the UK’s is no, it’s not needed. Americans are in a different relationship stage with McDonald’s. It is a great idea for newer food sellers who lack an… Read more »
Ralph Jacobson
Guest
9 years 11 months ago

This topic enters into the “trust” issue. I believe when consumers trust a brand, be it the store and/or the products they sell, a level of transparency typically is present to build that trust.

McDonald’s has tremendous brand value and that is true, in part, because of the high levels of trust consumers have in the brand in being able to be consistently satisfied around the globe at any of their restaurants. Great story.

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