If I Were Ronald McDonald……….

McDonalds are licking their wounds after a social media beating on one of their campaigns. You can find a report on the story here  . McDonald’s sent out two tweets with the hashtag #McDStories to highlight the “hard-working people” who help to produce its meals and promote the chain’s use of fresh produce . Not a bad idea on the surface.

They had to shut down the campaign within an hour when critics hijacked the hashtag to complain about McDonalds. Complaints ranged from food hygiene and sourcing to service and fast food culture in general.They accused the company of making customers sick, serving pig meat from gestation crates and offering up a burger containing a finger nail.

Rick Wion, McDonald’s social media director, admitted: “Within an hour, we saw that it wasn’t going as planned. It was negative enough that we set about a change of course.”

Rick, I feel for you. This was a good social media campaign but it wasn’t a good one for McDonalds. There are massive learnings to be had here though and this bad experience should only be the start rather than the end of McDonalds engagement strategy.

Since the documentary Super Size Me and other subsequent books and films like Fast Food Nation there has been a sustained and aggressive campaign against fast food chains. Being the leading brand in the market, McDonalds took the brunt of the attack and as such radically changed its image and product over the last six years.

This campaign opened the door to more of these attacks and the fact that McDonalds couldn’t even ride out more than an hour shows how powerful their opposition is. The issue for me is the brand.The McDonalds brand is still demonised as the ultimate in globalisation and corporate malpractice. I don’t think McDonalds can move into social media expecting brand loyalty and advocacy just yet. Instead, they should lead with product.

Their products have vastly improved since the documentary came out and now, McDonalds can actually stand over quality and sourcing alot better. In order to counter the arguements laid out, McDonalds should do seperate campaigns on social designed to fact check and promote individual products. Converse and debate with the opponents and ask brand mavens to defend and advocate the products. In essence, take the argument and conversation away from the McDonalds brand and focus it on the product.

They could tie product campaigns in with previous brand statements like “I’m Lovin’ It” by creating a hashtag brand to go with each product #imlovinMcNuggets #imlovinThickShakes etc etc. Replies about how terrible McDonalds are have a lot less relevancy and impact when the conversation point is a milk shake.Over 12 to 18 months, they could develop the advocacy to the point where a campaign like they just had could potentially live and breath.

Also, it might be an idea to take the perceived failure of this campaign and turn it around directly. There could be room for a McDonalds facts campaign on social. This would need a great deal of preparation but it could be a game changer for the company. Actively engage with each of the people attacking the brand and fact check their arguement, ask them if McDonalds can do anything to improve their experience for them. It would be rocky to start off with and would need significant investment but it could yield massively potent results.

What ever the case, I hope McDonalds don’t shut down social after this experience. It wasn’t a bad campaign, it was just too soon for McDonalds. Controversial brands will always attract negative comments on social but it is how the company deals with these comments and how they engage the next time that will determine the success.

Good luck McD’s. I am off for a KFC.

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