McDonald’s has launched a live Q&A forum to answer consumer questions. It gives consumers an opportunity to resolve enduring questions they may have about the source and production of McDonald’s food, and it gives the brand a chance to talk about what happens behind the scenes at the company in a positive light.
McDonald’s, the world’s largest fast-food hamburger chain, is no stranger to criticism. The global corporation has been called out on numerous issues – everything from how the restaurant treats its workers, to the unhealthy items on their menus, and even cruelty to animals.
There was a time perhaps, that the way to handle this was via strictly worded press releases and clever PR, but such methods are now tremendously dated. In the world of free-moving, digital information, wikis, freedom of information requests, and powerful, connected online communities, consumers are quickly able to recognize the difference between insincere and authentic marketing messages.
‘Our Food, Your Questions’
Today there’s a growing need for brands to be open and authentic about their products. McDonald’s latest campaign, “Our Food, Your Questions,” is an extension of a campaign that has already run in Canada and Australia, to great success. The U.S. rollout is even more crucial in that it covers the corporation’s most significant market.
To promote the campaign, McDonald’s have drafted “Mythbusters” host Grant Imahara to present a series of short films visiting McDonald’s factories, farms, and restaurants. The videos will be closely linked to the many questions the brand has received about the production processes of McDonald’s food.
One recent video (“Is McDonald’s beef real?”) takes a trip to the corporation’s Cargill factory opening the doors and taking viewers through the meat production process in a informative, positive video. It represents a new direction in the brand’s messaging, addressing the criticism that their food has received over the years in a direct, and positive manner.
As Kevin Newell, Chief Brand and Strategy Officer for McDonald’s USA revealed in a statement:
“We’re proud of the food we serve our 27 million U.S. customers every day, yet we know people have unanswered questions, so we’re inviting everyone in the U.S. on a journey to learn more about our food.”
A rejuvenated sense of pride is one thing, but it’s the way such openness is received by consumers that is of real value to the brand, despite the very obvious risk of negative publicity. Heather Oldani, Senior Director of Communications explained that customers “want to know what goes in the products and services, customers are willing to give you the benefit of the doubt, if you show you’re out there.”
Will McDonald’s Effort Succeed?
“Our food, your questions.” was launched in Canada over two years ago to great success, so the corporation has good reason to believe that the approach will gain traction. One video produced for the Canadian campaign, “Why does your food look better in ads?” has since been viewed more than 10 million times.
In McDonald’s own words, the Canadian campaign saw the brand “achieve dramatic gains on brand trust scores (by as much as 60 percent) and food-quality perceptions.” Despite this, corporation representatives insists the new transparency of their messaging is not for the purpose of business performance. Instead, as Chief Brand Manager Kevin Newell recently told “Good Morning America” the campaign is simply designed to “make sure customers truly know the story about McDonald’s food.”
Embracing Authenticity, Unlocking The Power Of User-Generated Content
For many decades of operation, McDonald’s have been somewhat closed in communicating what goes into the production of their products. It has been to their detriment in the past, giving rise to rumors of “pink slime,” and questionable practices over the rearing of cage poultry. “Our Food, Your Questions” works because it acknowledges that users have genuine concerns about their food, and allows them to address the rumors.
User-generated content is both informative and effective in driving content and answers. The company’s supply chains are very long, sourcing raw ingredients from all over the world, and it would be impossible for any one content marketing campaign to address questions from McDonald’s many customers. The questions user are asking the brand allows them to produce content that they know will be useful and well received; as is evident in the positive reception the videos produced for the campaign.
But the real value of the campaign is in the brand’s embracing of authentic marketing, and the boldness with which they have committed to the strategy. There will always be some who are repelled by the chain’s food, but there are many more who will commend the brand for efficiency and innovation across their huge global supply chains, and ever present provision of quick, serviceable, food.
Even more will appreciate and be won by the openness of a brand who both listens and responds to their consumers.
McDonald’s Supersized Social Effort
Another initiative by McDonald’s will see the restaurant establish 14,500 Facebook pages, giving it the largest footprint of any brand on the social network. So far 7,000 pages have gone live, with the remaining planned to be live by the end of this year – and each franchise will also have its own Twitter account dotRising reported.
David Martinelli, U.S. digital marketing manager at McDonald’s, spoke of the effort at the Dreamforce conference in San Francisco:
“…We know that’s a lot of pages to get up and running, but we know the customer’s journey doesn’t end at the restaurant,” “We wanted to connect to them in the place they’re at and deliver that relevant content. It’s important to be part of the conversation and really understand what’s being said, and then join the conversation.”
What do you think of McDonald’s “Our Food, Your Questions” content campaign? Share your thoughts in the comments!