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the Big Blog Company | Come back to what you know, McDonald’s
“Who yer callin' a sparrow, you schmuck?!”
The bird on the back.
October 15 2004
Come back to what you know, McDonald’s
Jackie Danicki • Marketing & PR 
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The story has made a big splash in the British mainstream press, but all it really amounts to is that McDonald’s is going to morph its golden arches into a golden question mark during a two week ad campaign in the UK. The tagline “McDonald’s. But not as you know it” will accompany the images. Big whoop.

This story sprang to mind as I walked past the McDonald’s in the Kilburn High Road in London yesterday, where I snapped this photo.


I am not sure when this McDonald’s incorporated an Easy Internet Café into its premises (if it was after June of this year, I’d wonder if the franchise owner is a reader of Seth Godin’s blog), but I think it’s a move in the right direction for the chain. While I agree with most of Godin’s free advice to McDonald’s, I do disgree sharply with the suggestion that they completely phase out their sales of Coke. This is for the same reasons that I roll my eyes at their much-hyped salads: Who the hell goes to McDonald’s for health food? What Mickey D’s does best is nutritionally bankrupt fast food. That is why people go there. If some of the people who go there choose to go there a little too often, eating much too much, I don’t think McDonald’s should be too wishy-washy about it. They can’t cook for their customers and babysit them. And I think that most people are clued-up enough to recognise that McDonald’s doesn’t force anybody to eat in their outlets at gunpoint.

Worse, McDonald’s is doing a direct mail campaign in the UK, to the tune of 17 million households being bombarded with junk post. They are doing it to highlight the fact that they are now offering more fruit and vegetables on their menu. That sound you hear is McDonald’s marketing people banging their heads repeatedly against the wall (and me slapping my forehead with an open palm).

It all comes back to what Seth Godin said in June:

[C]hanging the marketing without changing the underpinnings of the business is almost always a bad strategy. If all the people, the systems, the real estate, the factories and the menus are organized around monolithic marketing, slapping a little brand journalism on top isn’t going to work awfully well.

For confirmation of this, take another look at the strapline that McD’s is using in the British ad campaign:

McDonald’s. But not as you know it.

It, not us. We all know that McDonald’s is a monolith. Having Ronald McDonald as a mascot does not mean McDonald’s is not a faceless, voiceless company. (Indeed, do they still use Ronald McDonald in their ads? I haven’t seen him in one since I was a kid growing up in the US.) The difference is, this time, they’re trying to convince us through “brand journalism” and salads and juice that they care, that they are all about their customers, that they want a long, lasting, fruitful relationship with us.

Well, they don’t - it does. I don’t have relationships with its, and neither will most of the people McDonald’s is trying desperately to lure through its doors with golden question marks and illusions of health food within. Give us a friendly face from inside the company, speaking in a credible, human voice, who can let us know that you still make a mean McFlurry (and still serve up those icy Cokes), and we just might pop in sometime - and stay for the free wifi. We just might come back again, too.

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