Case Study of McDonalds: Advertising and Promotion Strategies

McDonald’s is the worlds leading fast food restaurant and is globally recognized. With over tens of thousands of stores spread across 119 countries, McDonald’s serves an astounding 50 million customers daily. McDonald’s has been viewed as the pinnacle and one of the defining features of the American lifestyle.  Burger, fries, and a Coke were the traditional meal.  Once it spread globally, it boomed into popularity because other countries wanted to be associated with the successful image of the “American dream”.

McDonald’s provides a positive and caring attitude towards the community of which it serves. McDonalds’ vision states that “We are not a hamburger company serving people; we are a people company serving hamburgers”. With a vision so clearly committed to people, customers have responded by continuing to keep McDonald’s number one.

McDonalds Advertising and Promotion Strategies

Other aspects of the McDonald’s dining experience show why their customers continue to hold their reputation high.  They use things like the dollar menu, playgrounds, endorsements, and charities all add to create the overall satisfying experience.  These things overshadow the health risks that are a large issue in today’s American society.  Through the information we have found, McDonald’s is still popular because it is about convenience and fast food.  Until people are willing to wait longer to eat and pay more for healthier food, it will still be one of the leading chains.

Target Market

Traditionally, and still today, McDonalds’ focus in advertising, marketing, and design has been children.  This is obvious with their PlayPlace, Happy Meals, and character Ronald McDonald.  They actually introduced Ronald as a way to draw families into the restaurant.  In recent years, McDonald’s has also been increasing their marketing toward mothers.  This makes sense because they have to also draw the moms into the restaurant, where the kids want to go.  They are almost a small addition to the child market.  McDonalds’ use a variety of marketing strategies to attract children, moms, and families in general.

Promotions and Current Marketing

McDonald’s is actively working to change their image to a healthier one. Gone are the days where hamburgers are the key advertising attraction.  People already know McDonald’s; in fact the golden arches are the single most recognized symbol around the world, even before the cross.  They have completely saturated the market to the point where you can now even order a Big Mac while shopping at Wal-Mart.  Their problem, however, is their battle with health critics and customers filing lawsuits about their unhealthy products.  This negative publicity is shaping some stereotypes around the company which they want to change.

As we know, perception is reality.  The American public sees McDonald’s as a restaurant that is as unhealthy. Americans don’t go to McDonald’s with visions of healthy food dancing in their heads. Some don’t even go to McDonald’s at all.  So how does McDonald’s get them back?  This is an immense project that may also never be a successful one.

it’s what i eat and what i do…i’m lovin’ it

The most recent way that McDonald’s has tried to create a healthy image is their new marketing campaign titled “it’s what i eat and what i do…i’m lovin’ it.” The campaign is meant to build upon their global marketing campaign, “i’m lovin’ it,” which was launched in September 2003.  It is designed to “tie all our balanced, active lifestyles messages together,” said McDonald’s CEO Jim Skinner (Press Release, 3/08/05).  The theme highlights the “important interplay between eating right and staying active.”

Throughout all of the press releases and media material that we found on McDonald’s corporate website there was one common phrase: “balanced, active lifestyles.”  It is their new platform and it consists of three pillar ideas: increasing menu choice, promoting physical activity, and providing more accessible information.  In the next few paragraphs we will illustrate just exactly what McDonald’s is doing in their marketing campaign to address these three pillars.

The most recent example of the first pillar, increasing menu choice, is the introduction of the new Asian Chicken Salad.  McDonald’s is both expanding their menu and increasing the availability of “healthy” foods.  Advertisements for this new salad are everywhere.  Signage is present outside the restaurants, on street banners, and even on the windows and near the registers.  One food bag also featured the new Asian Chicken Salad as part of a GoActive! Happy Meal.  We even saw a couple different versions of advertisements on television for this salad as well as an ad in “InStyle” magazine.  It is their newest healthy item. Other recent menu additions were also “healthier” choices such as Premium Chicken sandwiches and other premium salads.

The second pillar of this campaign, promoting physical activity, is also evident on bags, cups and signage in each store.  The bags that hold food orders no longer have hamburger ads on the outside. They now feature images of people leading “balanced, active” lives.  On one bag, a woman is doing yoga with a caption saying “being good to myself has never been easier…i’m lovin’ it.”  This lady is sending a message that she thinks it is easy to maintain her healthy lifestyle by eating at McDonald’s. Physical activity is also promoted through the introduction of four different 15 minute workout DVDs that you can get when you buy the GoActive! Happy Meal that includes a salad and a Dasani bottled water.  During the Winter Olympics in Torino, many Olympic athletes were also featured on McDonald’s bags with motivational messages about their active lives.  McDonald’s is doing everything they can to broadcast images of healthy active people and associating them with McDonald’s.

The third and final pillar, more accessible information, is evident in McDonald’s new packaging concept that will provide nutritional information on individual food boxes. McDonald’s has a “30 year history of providing nutrition information to customers,” but as recent lawsuits against McDonald’s and scenes from the movie “Super Size Me” suggest, they have room for improvement (Press Release, 2/07/06).  The lawsuits against McDonald’s claimed that the plaintiffs were obese because they were unaware of the nutritional content of the McDonald’s food that they were eating.  Whether that is believable or not, McDonald’s was forced to make a move.  They were lucky that these lawsuits were thrown out due to the fact that the plaintiffs could not prove that McDonald’s was at fault, but what if the next plaintiff had a better case?  McDonald’s has to be on the defensive.

Therefore, McDonald’s is moving nutrition facts straight to the box.  Not only does each box have the nutrition facts table, but McDonald’s also chose to highlight the five most relevant indicators that customers can understand: calories, protein, fat, carbohydrates, and salt.  These five indicators are presented in a different color, while the nutrition table is presented in plain text.  The only packages that will not feature nutritional information will be those used in short-term promotions and wrappers and containers that are used for multiple products.  In those cases, customers will be referred to McDonald’s websites and in-restaurant brochures.