what if mcdonalds…

What if McDonalds rethought how they looked at marketing?

McD’s is a brand that’s fed its customers for nearly 70 years and fed 47 million people daily. Both its reach and longevity can’t be argued, and are impressive. McD’s makes food that people really like and sells it for a price that can’t be beat. But it is squandering so many opportunities. I say this as one of the biggest customers of fast food in America. Wendy’s got me through college (it’s what we had at the student center). And since then I’ve regularly indulged on McD’s and the King. And, yeah, I know it’s not healthy and that I need to eat better. Anyway.

1) Make the largest, highest-profile, busiest restaurants an experience to visit. I never understood why the McDonalds’ in the heart of NYC, where millions of tourists stop for their meals are just as dilapidated, and sometimes, dirty, as they are elsewhere in the country. Invest in these McD’s to make them the nicest anywhere in the country. When a tourist, visitor, businessman, whatever, stops to eat there they’re blown away by a delightful experience. Triple the staff that’s cleaning so the place is always spotless. Make all the tables and chairs super-comfortable. Make sure the climate is always perfect. Ensure the smell of the place is of muted tasty food. Have a number system so someone will bring your food to your table avoiding clustering around the counter. Increase the assembly staff so the food is carefully prepared and looks amazing. Sure this eats into margins. But this is the best advertising McD’s could ever get. People having a positive experience, leading to increased repeats or new trial in their hometown. Use these stores as advertisements.

2) Pay attention to the details in all your stores. McD’s can’t make all their stores walking ads, but they can pay attention to the details. I’ve heard that McD’s is remodeling all their stores to improve the decor and seating. I think that’s great. But the fundamentals have always been most important to me: A clean store, counter, and visible kitchen area. A cashier who doesn’t sneer at and/or ignore me. And, finally, a meal doesn’t look like it was thrown together by a blind man. The first two are, no doubt, constant topics of conversation at McD’s headquarters. Better procedures, systems, and pay (duh) should take care of these. A carefully made sandwich though is something that I’ve only rarely seen. And when you get to the detail of having a to bag with the sandwich tucked nicely in with the fries, napkins on the side and crisply closed with a fold, that’s pride in a product. That’s a product that people will value.

3. Your stores are everywhere, so use the exterior to announce your offers. I don’t get why McD’s wastes millions of dollars announcing their latest promotion. They have stores every five feet. Take advantage of this with a consistent outdoor spot where you announce the latest promotion. Entice me as I’m passing by. There’s so much more you can do with less.

Moving out to the Bay and from packaged goods to technology wasn’t hard. Why? Because it’s always been my belief that if the product is wrong, all the marketing in the world can’t save you. Making these changes to the product is the *best* marketing McDonald’s can do. When McD’s (and, honestly, every other fast food chain) starts valuing their food and taking pride in the details, I’m pretty sure they’ll begin to build brand loyalty. Maybe then they can spend all that money on commercials.


This is the first in an a series that I’ll be writing about companies (online and offline) and ideas that I would execute if I was running them. Like everyone else, I dream of the day when I can have companies actually pay me for ideas (ha!). Maybe after a 1000 of these, one of the companies will actually approach me πŸ™‚ Here’s the RSS link to subscribe to just articles about marketing. I know there are people who would just want to subscribe to these “marketing” thoughts and not my politics and random other thoughts. (thanks, Ben, for the link!)

4 thoughts on “what if mcdonalds…

  1. Fundamentally i agree with what you are saying about McDonalds. However, they are a worldwide corporation with a "standard" in service. Albeit their "standard" is quite sub-standard. It's like going to a hotel chain. You know what to expect and they know what their investment is going to be. I think most people would feel snubbed if New York had a 5 star McD's while the rest of us got the 2 star treatment. As far as pricing is concerned you get what you pay for. They can give you a dollar menu because they hire corkey to make and serve it to you. Long gone are the days of proud workmanship and service with a smile. We now live in such a materialistic society that no matter how much money you are making it's almost never enough to compensate for the "bullshit" that we deal with in our day to day jobs. These are the reasons i can walk into a fast food joint looking or being homeless and no one will bat an eye at me while i scarf down my crap burger (they are so good though). And when i walk into a Mortons or Craft Steakhouse i better be dressed to impress with my pockets full of money. Just my 2 cents

  2. Hey Marc — long time, no speak. I don't disagree with you at all. You get what you pay for. But my point is that McDonalds spends between $600 million to $1.2 billion on advertising annually (depending on which source you believe)– I would shift from spending my money on all those commercials to improving the product. No price increase necessary. That might mean you can only do some of these things– but still I think it would increase sales more than their ads.

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