Ever wonder what McDonald’s food is actually made of? How they make it? Why it looks the way it does? You’re not alone. For years, McDonald’s has been dogged by questions like these and by the urban myths that spread as ‘answers’ to these questions in the absence of a proper forum for customer/company dialogue. Until now, that is. McDonald’s new ‘Our Food. Your Questions.’ social media campaign provides customers with the opportunity to ask questions online and get answers directly from McDonald’s that are posted and public on the Our Food. Your Questions. website. Answers are also shared on popular social media networks, including YouTube, where several of McDonald’s video answers have been viewed over 2 million times by curious customers. Here’s 5 remarkable program elements that get my attention and my vote for McDonald’s Canada as 2012 Marketer-of-the-Year.
1. A brand-specific solution to a brand-specific problem creates strong Brand Link
Brand Link is one of the most difficult elements for marketers and advertisers to create when they build brand programs. Brand Link is a reflection of the fit between the brand and the program. When the fit is natural, based on real brand insights, it’s relatively easy for customers to accurately remember the link between that particular program and that particular brand – a pre-requisite for delivering brand-building results. When the fit is forced, based on brand insights another brand owns or generic category insights nobody owns, it’s harder for customers to remember who the program is for. No amount of logo or brand presence can make up for a poor brand/program fit (though long-term commitment to a generic category position often yields positive results over the long-term).
One of the reasons I like this new campaign for McDonald’s so much is that it is based on addressing real category and brand insights: is fast food real food? do they add a lot of chemical preservatives? why does Mcdonald’s fast food in particular look so different? what exactly does McDonald’s mean when they say ‘made with 100% pure beef’? We’ve all wondered what the real answers are to many of these exact questions – particularly, when it comes to McDonald’s food. Most of us have at least one question we’d like to hear McDonald’s answer straight up for us. So, for Mcdonald’s to create a forum for us to ask those questions and get the straight goods in return, it’s not surprising that customers all over Canada are curious and engaged. Perhaps, that explains why the McDonald’s Food in Advertising video (above) has been viewed 7.5 million times over the past 6 months and the Big Mac Secret Sauce video (below) has been viewed 2.5 million times.
2. Answering all questions – even the tough ones – demonstrates commitment to truth
For a campaign like this one to work, it has to be fully transparent and answers have to be provided in a reasonable timeframe. McDonald’s also has to answer the hard questions, as well as the easy ones. In the first 4 months, McDonald’s answered 6,000 questions, which is admirable. While they did disable the comments section on their YouTube video answers, they have nonetheless tackled a wide-variety of difficult questions head-on with full video, including how cattle are raised (below) and how beef is processed (below). Not surprisingly, these 2 video’s haven’t received as many customer viewings as the previous 2 videos.
3. Using real McDonald’s employees and vendors to answer questions makes the program feel genuine
Using real McDonald’s employees and vendor partners to answer questions in their area of expertise is perfectly appropriate for this kind of social media initiative. Their knowledge, individuality and passion for their work helps put a human face on McDonald’s and lends an air of genuineness to their answers. It’s nice to see McDonald’s include answers from such a wide range of cross-functional team members and partners.
4. Launching with digital provides time to get supporting operations right before layering on mass media
The ‘Our Food. Your Questions.’ campaign was created by Tribal DDB Toronto. According to Marketing Magazine, the program launched with the digital Question-and-Answer website for 3 months before a 4-week offline multi-media campaign was layered on (:30 TV ad, wild postings, video projections on buildings, transit domination in key markets). The Digital launch phase generated about 4,000 questions, which grew by a further 10,000 questions after the mass media campaign was added. Starting small with a digital-only soft launch was a smart way to prepare the organization for the full onslaught that would come later with the addition of mass media.
5. Continued investment and expansion of the successful digital program will maximize long-term brand differentiation and ROI
Big, bold, brand-differentiating ideas like this one don’t come around every day. So when you see one that makes impact, it’s wise to invest in it and develop it for the long-term to maximize brand differentiation and return-on-investment. It’s unclear whether mass media was originally planned to support this digital initiative from the outset but it was certainly the right decision to use it post-launch to accelerate customer interest and participation in the program. I’d expect McDonald’s to maintain and expand this program in Canada, while looking for ways to export it to other markets worldwide (which I gather they’re already discussing). I’d also consider deepening the social media conversation at some point by soliciting ideas from customers, rather than just answering their questions. Starbucks does a great job of this with My Starbucks Idea, a site where customers share ideas about how to improve Starbucks; so far, 100 customer ideas have been adopted in one form or another. Dell does the same with its IdeaStorm website, where 500 ideas have been implemented. McDonald’s has a rare opportunity to join these other great brands as a leader in the digital social media revolution. Perhaps, 2012 will be remembered as the year McDonald’s planted all the right Marketing seeds to take the brand to the next level.
McDonald’s Canada Turns up Volume on ‘Our Food. Your Questions.’, mcdonalds.ca
McDonald’s U.S. benefiting from Canadian social media campaign, Maureen Morrison, Marketing Magazine
2012 Marketers-of-the-Year shortlist: McDonald’s Canada, Kristin Laird, Marketing Magazine
5 Lessons From the Best Example of Content Marketing Ever?, Jay Baer, ConvinceandConvert.com