Choose the fights worth fighting.
Much ballyhoo has been made about McDonald's new "Love" campaign. Certainly, some people are genuinely moved by the new TV spots. At the same time, some question whether McDonalds cares more about America than it does about Americans. They ask if "love" is a whitewash veneer painted over a declining corporate giant.
I'm sympathetic to many of those arguments. But what I was more curious about was how the brand strategy was developed that led the Golden Arches to this campaign in the first place.
In my mind, they must have ran down a list of positioning questions and didn't see a lot of compelling options.
Does McDonalds make the best hamburger?
Is your food healthier?
If not healthier, can it be positioned as the most unhealthy yet tasty option available?
Is it the cheapest?
Made to order?
(Jack in the Box)
Customizable? Flame-broiled? Free toppings? Retro fun? Third-place? Fast delivery? Fresh, never frozen?
No, no, no, no, no, no, no.
(Panera, Burger King, Five Guys, Johnny Rockets, Starbucks, Jimmy John's, etc.)
So what would you do if it were your responsibility to make some brand magic?
You might look for inspiration from the master brand strategist of millennia past: Sun Tzu. He'd tell the McDonalds execs to pick a fight they can win.
Love fits that bill.
The above questions notwithstanding, there are millions of people who love McDonalds. They love the food just as it is. A surge of endorphins flood their brain at the mere thought of McDonalds fries.
I know this to be true.
Here's something else I also know: When I was seven years old, my father surprised me at school, picked me up and took me to McDonalds for lunch. I ordered my first Big Mac (in fact, it was my first non-Happy Meal ever). We sat outside in the spring sun, under the shade of a fiberglass Mayor McCheese. I didn't play on the McDonaldland toys that day. No, in that moment, I was a man. It's silly, but that is one of my fondest memories of my childhood.
McDonalds will never be able to convince me that their food is good for me. But they can remind me of special moments long past. As Sun Tzu would say, that's a fight they can win.
So despite that fact that I haven't had a McDonalds hamburger in the last few decades, there's a part of me, deep down, that still loves it.
Will this campaign rescue the McDonalds brand from an inevitable death spiral? Perhaps. Perhaps not. But what alternative does the burger giant have?