Last summer, McDonald’s made the news for their consolidation of all their agencies into one. It had an $800 Million price tag with Omnicom coming out on top. They added a unique tie to the overall sales impact. That is very uncommon for the agency relationship. As someone who spent 20 years on the brand side, I had some doubts that linking the agency’s compensation to sales might focus the advertising too much on the short-term. That is the first McDonald’s ad with its new agency.
McDonald’s has struggled with relatively flat sales results for the past two years. The only growth came when they turned their breakfast items into an all-day breakfast. Even that, has recently flattened out. The role of a Brand is to create a tight bond with your consumers, which will lead to power and profit beyond what the product alone could ever achieve. The problem is that when you just become a short-term sales machine, then who is building the brand?
The healthier the brand, the easier it is to sell from. Think of your advertising plan a little like those “leave a penny; take a penny” cups we see at a convenient store. The advertising must work to keep the cup pretty full. A strict product sell type ad “takes a penny” while an anthemic brand ad seems to “leave a penny” to be used later. I guess the problem I see is McDonald’s needs a few more pennies in the cup. They need to create a tighter bond with their consumers to have a healthier brand, to enable them to sell product from. I would have expected McDonald’s to come out with a few anthemic ‘brand spots’ to re-create the magical appeal of their amazing brand. Instead, this attempts to just sell Big Macs. It does not add anything. It just takes a penny from an empty cup.
Mistake #1:McDonald’s advertising is trying to be everything to anyone is the starting point to end up nothing to everyone
This brief clearly had “everyone” as the target market.
When you target everyone, then no one thinks the ad is for them. They each think it is for someone else. With a non-edgy rap song, teens will think it is a lame attempt to get 38-year-olds, while the 38-year=olds will think the ad is for kids. This music feels like a whole new music category I would call corporate rap. The visuals also support the “everyone” argument. One scene has a teenager in a library, while another scene uses a banker that closes a deal. This is what happens when you have “everyone” for every potential occasion on your brief.
Mistake #2: McDonald’s advertising is trying to move feet (go buy it) before they move the brain (positioning)
This brief clearly stated, “sell more Big Macs”.
They really needed a big new agency to produce this spot? The biggest problem for McDonald’s is consumers no longer know what it stands for….is it a family restaurant, a coffee shop, a sandwich shop or a meeting place? What is it? Sales have flattened. Evidence would suggest they have lost their way and need to get it back. McDonald’s needs to define themselves in the mind of consumers. They need to pick one path, not a bunch of them at once. With a desperate need for brand repositioning, they ignore that with their first spot out of the gates that just sells the product. They should have led with a new brand spot to establish what they want their brand to stand for, whether that ties back to a prior positioning, updates their positioning or finds something completely new. What is the 7-second Big Idea you would use to describe the brand?
Mistake #3: This McDonald’s ad will have no impact on the consumer
This ad likely had “Recent data shows 25% of millennial consumers have never had a Big Mac.” as the business problem. What the brief failed to do was translate the business problem into a consumer problem.
Creative execution must amplify your brand story and brand positioning so that your brand stands out in the crowded marketplace, connecting with your most desired consumers so they will see, think, act or feel differently about your brand than before they saw the message. This ad does nothing. It attempts to reconnect with those who already know about the Big Mac and basically asks them to try it again. If you have never had a Big Mac, this ad does nothing for you.
What I wished McDonald’s had done was to figure out their Big Idea that reflects their inner brand soul. And then work to build a new reputation in the market the brand can stand behind.
McDonald’s advertising needs smarter focus, definition, and execution
The problem many brand leaders have, is they come to a decision point, and they try to find a way to justify doing both. Sorry, McDonald’s. This is my second article this month that trashes your strategy and now your execution. I am a fan of the brand, I want the brand to be successful. My big ask is that you find some way to focus. Here’s the last article I wrote about McDonald’s unable to decide whether they want to completely re-build their kitchens to sell fresh expensive hamburgers or they want to completely re-build their lounge areas to sell more coffee.
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