Is McDonalds’ new marketing campaign nuts… or genius?

The fast-food megabrand is working hard to stay on top. Does that explain some of its marketing choices?

The fast-food megabrand is working hard to stay on top. Does that explain some of its marketing choices?

Things have not gone easy for McDonalds lately. Just last week, the company’s CEO, Don Thompson, stepped down after just two-and-a-half years at the helm. The organization has also suffered through some major menu mishaps, Millennials choosing other restaurants in droves, a 4.1% drop in the US market, and a 21% drop in fourth-quarter earnings. I’m sure its shareholders have agita.

Still, there are some bright spots for the Golden Arches. Take the Super Bowl, for example.

According to Ad Age, Twitter’s online polling overwhelmingly chose McD’s big game spot as the evening’s best—a coveted place in American culture and marketing.

Here’s what I find intriguing about all of this… McDonalds is working to change a LOT about itself, including its management, how it reaches this more health-conscious generation, and the very product it sells. Yet it’s staying with its brand theme, I’m lovin’ it.


That’s an interesting choice, considering all the turmoil behind the scenes at the fast food behemoth—not to mention its spiraling loss of market share. Usually, a marketing campaign is the first thing to face the chef’s chopping block. Who knows, maybe once the chain makes some big-time changes, it will serve up a new slogan and approach. But right now, it seems to be McDoubling down.

And I think they’re doing it extremely well, frankly.

In its latest campaign, from February 2-14, McDonalds will randomly choose customers and ask them to “Pay with lovin’.” By this, the clerk behind the counter will ask the customer to do something that demonstrates being a loving person in some way. In the Super Bowl commercial, customers were asked to say what they loved about their kids, or were requested to call their mom and say, “I love you.”

The Super Bowl spot was very well produced—emotional and candid. The company’s Twitter presence the night of the game was stunning… positively, lovingly commenting on other brands’ commercials. In a fascinating twist, McDonalds gave away other brands products in a Twitter contest. It encouraged, for example, people to retweet its message praising a Toyota commercial. If you did, you had a chance to win a new Camry:

Lovin’ how @Toyota showed us all how great we can be. Powerful stuff. RT & you could win a new 2015 Toyota Camry

It did the same with Snickers, Disney and every other Super Bowl spot. That got a lot of people’s attention.

This latest effort definitely puts McDonalds on a better marketing track. The company was always brilliant at marketing, but it had some gut-wrenchers along the way with social media. Most of us remember the #McStories campaign from about a year ago, when the company thought people would share gushy, sentimental stories of enjoying McNuggets with loved ones. Instead, the Twitterverse slammed the fast-food giant with hysterically funny—and vile—comebacks by the thousands.

As the company puts itself through some sort of reinvention, I’m anxious to see what marketing and branding choices it will make. The person replacing the outgoing CEO, by the way, is Steve Easterbrook—McDonalds’ former chief brand officer. McCoincidence?

– Andy Badalamenti is the creative director for CI-Group

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