Can a ‘no change’ rebrand save McDonald’s?

Surely some mistake?

UnknownNo, McDonald’s CEO Don Thompson (left) has promised analysts in the US that the company is about to embark on an 18-month exercise aimed at making the flagging fast food giant a “more trusted and respected brand.”

But, says Thompson, this “won’t necessarily involve the typical hallmarks of a rebrand, such as a new logo or total design overhaul.” So what is it planning? Well the company says it’s going to focus on improving customer service, adjusting its menu, and retooling marketing efforts, particularly online and social media. It’s also going to add ‘sustainable beef’ and more fruit and veg to its menus.

Oh dear, we’ve all been here before. Do you remember when McDonald’s in the UK introduced overpriced tubs of apple slices to its menus? I once enjoyed a conversation with a McD marketing executive about this as he was travelling up the motorway – tearing his hair out by the sound of it.

It didn’t work then and it won’t work now ‘cos that’s not why you go to McDonald’s. And adding ‘sustainable’ beef won’t make any difference either unless they dump the ‘unsustainable’ beef – the cattle that munch away on what used to be Amazon rain forest – in the process. And if ever there was a company that needs a new logo and total design overhaul it’s McDonald’s.

Even that might not do the trick if it keeps flogging stuff that makes you fat. Chipotle in the US is profiting mightily by doing, or appearing to do, the opposite. Leon in the UK actually does it.

Smarter marketing can’t work on its own. Coca-Cola is probably the smartest marketer in the world, doing just about everything right in new and ingenious ways. But its sales are in relentless decline as more and more people turn away from its staple product – sugary drinks.

It would be interesting to learn what McD’s main agencies DDB and Leo Burnett make of all this. At the very least it looks likely that McDonald’s will hire a new kid on the block to handle some aspects of this ‘rebrand.’ I think they’ll be calling that nice Mr Wieden in Portland.

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About Stephen Foster

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Stephen is a former editor of Marketing Week and London Evening Standard advertising columnist. He wrote City Republic for Brand Republic and is a partner in communications consultancy The Editorial Partnership.