McDonald’s Q&A Content Campaign Tries To Build Consumer Trust

Top fast-food restau­rant brand answers ques­tions about its food.

Pat Hong By Pat Hong from Linkdex. Join the discussion » 0 comments

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!

Pat Hong

Written by Pat Hong

Editor at Linkdex/Inked, Linkdex

Pat covers the SEO industry, digital marketing trends, and anything and everything around Linkdex. He also authors Linkdex's data analysis and reports, analysing the state of search in various industries.

Inked is published by Linkdex, the SEO platform of choice for professional marketers.

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