05 January 2015

McDonald's "reinvigorated" brand vision. I'm not lovin' it.

One of marketing's major continuing problems is jargon. The fuzzy cloud of meaning around so many bits of marketing terminology continues to grow, fuelling the discipline's generally poor reputation and leaving it perpetually open to ridicule.

But surely McDonald's, as one of the world's best-known brands and most powerful marketing organisations, must have its shit together when it comes to communicating its marketing strategy clearly to staff and stakeholders...? Apparently not.

According to Advertising Age last Friday, McDonald's has just launched a "new brand vision... reigniting the 'I'm lovin' it' theme by introducing a new platform that puts more focus on lovin' with more uplifting content and conversations in the lovin' spirit". Hmmm... that sounds a lot more like an episode of Touched By An Angel than a brand vision.

In a carefully-scripted video message, McDonald's Chief Marketing Officer Deborah Wahl manages to cram a career's worth of circular definitions and contradictory marketing buzzphrases into just 4 short minutes of twaddle.

Her marketing philosophy, she says, centres on "powerful ideas", because "a powerful idea changes how we think, feel, act and what we do. It's everything." Great. So I waited... and waited... but I didn't ever hear a powerful idea. If there was one, it was buried under piles of empty phrases, picked up and tossed about like discarded hamburger wrappers in the wind.

McDonald's is on "a journey... to change the relationship and the conversation". Which conversation? The one with the person on the other end of the drive-through speaker?

McDonald's will focus on engagement, "knowing that engagement leads to customer experience". Er, no. Customers have an experience whether or not they're engaged.

McDonald's wants to "evolve with our customers"; but while they're evolving, they're also having "an open, transparent dialog(ue) with our customers". Do you want fries with that?

In the age of social media, words like engagement, conversation and dialogue may have become compulsory marketing speak but they're completely worthless unless marketers can clearly define what they mean, how they can be measured and how they are linked to customer value and competitive advantage.

In the end, despite what Ms Wahl introduces as a "brand transformation", it turns out that the 10-year-old tagline "I'm lovin' it" will remain at the centre of McDonald's positioning and marketing communications.

Sure, there's a cute new ad execution from Leo Burnett, suggesting that a bit of lovin' from McDonald's can bring mortal enemies together. But call it what you will - brand transformation, vision, platform, journey - I can't see anything visionary or transformational there. No powerful idea. Nothing supersized.

Just the same old meal deal.

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