McDonald’s global CMO wants to change its ‘cultural wallpaper’ image

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McDonald’s global CMO Morgan Flatley admitted the brand was “a bit meaningless” to consumers in 2019.

Speaking at the Cannes Lions Festival of Creativity yesterday (June 20), she said the fast-food giant was doing a lot to address this and move away from that ‘cultural wallpaper’ image.

One of the big goals at the time was to make the brand “really stand for something”, as she said McDonald’s was creating “a ton of content”, but a lot of it was not succeeding.

Part of the problem was that McDonald’s is considered a “huge sales organization,” she said. And when she joined in 2017, she ended up “spending a lot of time not wanting to disrupt that.”

You may end up trying to talk to everyone. And you end up talking to no one.

Morgan Flatley, McDonald’s

But she admitted the brand had been “so focused on the operational components” that it had neglected customer relationships.

“You can end up trying to talk to everyone. And you end up not talking to anyone,” she added of how McDonald’s targeted its consumers.

Around this time, McDonald’s began working with the Wieden + Kennedy agency after a nine-month pitch process.

One of the first campaigns the two organizations worked on together was “Famous Orders,” which premiered during the 2020 Super Bowl.

As part of the campaign, celebrities from Whoopi Goldberg and Kanye West to Millie Bobby Brown revealed their McDonald’s orders, part of the brand’s plan to show customer relationships by exploring the “interesting little obsessions” that people have with McDonald’s food.

Later that year, rapper Travis Scott got involved with the campaign in the United States, and his McDonald’s meal (a quarter pound with bacon and salad, medium fries with barbecue sauce and a medium Sprite) was sold out. , alongside a 57-piece merchandise collection. .

However, his connection to the brand became a problem for McDonald’s a year later when 10 concertgoers at Scott’s Astroworld Festival were killed by a stampede of fans. 300 others were injured.

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When asked if situations like this impact how McDonald’s navigates its brand partnerships, Flatley said the fact that McDonald’s built the Famous Orders platform with a number of celebrities had helped mitigate the impact of the tragedy on the brand.

If Scott was the only celebrity involved in the campaign, disaster “would have become synonymous” with the brand, she added.

“My advice to marketers would be don’t take that risk once, take that risk again and again,” she said. “Because then you open the brand.

“The platform has expanded beyond just one person and has become a platform that many celebrities can fit into.”

Read more: McDonald’s appoints new global CMO as part of broader leadership shakeup

Giving the agency perspective, Wieden+Kennedy Global CEO Neal Arthur, who was on stage alongside Flatley, said he had “never seen celebrities as synonymous with the brand” when he worked with clients. More broadly, he believes brands should tap into each celebrity’s “authentic” relationship with the company.

“If we said everyone who engages with the brand has to be perfect, we would never do anything,” he added.

The Famous Orders campaign taught the McDonald’s team the “willingness to take risks,” Flatley said, looking back over more than two years on the platform. This had the effect of helping the organization “understand the power” of ideas and led to a re-evaluation of the brand by consumers.

She added that there was also an unintended benefit in the power it gave employees. Flatley mentioned a story from a friend on the operational side of the business who said restaurant co-workers were “proud” to leave buildings in their uniforms, and “hadn’t done so in the past.”

It has to do with the “power and magic” of the brand, she added, which she said McDonald’s “lost” when it stopped focusing on “why people love” the brand.

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