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Marketing Transparency: McDonald’s Main Ingredient

April 23, 2015
Digital Marketing, Marketing Strategy, Risk Taking, Transparency

For years, McDonald’s has struggled with a bad reputation when it came to their food. With the help of social media, myths and rumors spread quickly and aggressively contributing to this poor reputation. Until a few years ago, McDonald’s wasn’t putting much effort into confronting these stigmas, further widening the trust gap. 

Their transparency campaign

In May of 2012, McDonald’s launched its Our Food. Your Questions transparency campaign in Canada, then in Australia. As of October of 2014, the campaign was launched in the United States. 

It was a well-planned, fully integrated, marketing strategy that allowed consumers to submit questions, loaded or otherwise, for McDonald’s to answer… publicly

The campaign empowered consumers to ask anything they wanted. They had the option to submit their questions via the medium of their choice — Twitter, Facebook, the campaign microsite, etc., and they even had kiosks set up to submit your questions while you’re on the go. And the best part: McDonald’s followed through on their promise.

It’s hard to believe a company with such a bad reputation would willingly produce an online library of what consumers believed to be the truth. Unless, what the consumers believe is true… is not. 

The questions you’d think McDonald’s would most want to avoid instead had the most thorough answers. For instance, in answering “What is the white stuff in a chicken nugget?” McDonald’s hired TV skeptic, Grant Imahara (from MythBusters fame), to host a video walkthrough of the process of a nugget from chicken breast to Happy Meal, debunking other myths and rumors along the way. Yes, they’re made from chicken breast. No bones. No pink sludge. 

Why they (probably) did it

More often, chains are opening up with more of a “fast casual dining” atmosphere than a “fast food” one. The truth is, McDonald’s is facing a marketplace where people increasingly want good food served fast, as opposed to fast food. 

One such chain to recognize this is Chipotle. And they’ve done a great job filling the gap. Chipotle touts grilled meats and vegetables without antibiotics or GMOs. Because of this, McDonald’s sales have been steadily dropping. 

Something needed to change. McDonald’s decided to finally confront their reputation and repair the trust consumers have in their company. 

What the ROI could look like

With a bit of education and acknowledgement of the campaign, consumers could find themselves in line at their local McDonald’s before they know it. Conservative skeptics and health-conscious eaters will probably always find that a Big Mac isn’t their best choice for lunch, but those who only held back because of the rumors or mistrust might have a different stand. 

The lesson for healthcare marketing

Healthcare is a complex market where goods and services have life and death implications. That naturally creates anxiety among much of the public. 

Similar to the McDonald’s situation, there are plenty of conspiracy theories and rumor mills affecting hospital and healthcare providers. There are worries about patient safety, frustration with the patient experience and other factors that could lead to a trust gap. 

Wouldn’t healthcare organizations benefit from a McDonald’s-like transparency campaign? We think they would. 

Phil Smith

Senior Digital Solutions Engineer.
That’s just fancy talk for really awesome web developer and web development innovator. With nearly a decade of Drupal Development experience, nothing is out of grasp. A connoisseur of front-end technologies with an appetite for the latest back-end automation tools. Efficiency is his name. Not really, but you know what we mean.

Analog at birth, now a digital, caffeine-based, lifeform.
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