McDonald’s social media gaffe (#McDstories): A reflection of brand betrayal and an erosion of customer confidence?

McLuhan Golden Arches

Have you ever heard the term “an accident waiting to happen?”

This is one of the first things that came to my mind when news of the McDonald’s hashtag gaffe hit the media.  That and the defence lawyer’s axiom never pose a question to a witness on the stand to which you do not already know the answer.

One can only assume that in their enthusiasm to establish a social media presence the burger icon was somehow lost in the disconnect between what was and what is in terms of market perception.

Back in the day, I used to look at McDonalds when my son was little as a family outing.  You remember?  When a family of five could dine for less than $5 dollars?

Today sadly to say, the brand consistency that used to ensure that whether you walked into a McDonald’s in Des Moines or one in Paris (France), you could always count on a consistency that provided a reassurance that as big of a place the world can be, there is always a little bit of home that can be found under the Golden Arches, no longer exists  . . . at least not to the extent that it once did.

In recent visits, I have been so disgusted by the filth in the washrooms, the inconsistency with service and even the quality of the food.  I am of course not alone in expressing this disappointment as one friend related a story of how when he got home after using the restaurant’s drive through he found that the servers at his local McDonald’s actually forgot to put the beef patties in his cheeseburgers.

It’s like the Forrest Gump analogy of “life being like a box of chocolates,” in that with McDonald’s you never know what you are going to get.

Of course, and as the inundation of customer discontent flooded the Twitter world, this not knowing what you are going to get swings both ways.

So what are the lessons that we can take away (or take out as the case may be) from the McDonald’s story?

  1. We have to be careful about how we put ourselves out there (being the virtual and infinite realms of the Internet)
  2. We really have to be proactive in maintaining a current day relevancy as it relates to our brand, be trustworthy in terms of delivering on our brand promise and, know our audience.
  3. We cannot be myopic and/or short sighted in terms of how we relate to the public, but instead have to continually reassess our branding efforts so that our rapport with our target market remains vital and relevant.  (Note: While McDonald’s has had 26 different catch phrase or brand taglines since 1967 (see below), the real question is not related to the frequency of change but if they found a resonating ear with the market at the time.  Which of the 26 do you remember best?)

Or to put it another way . . . when it comes to your brand’s creditability false promises are worse than no promises!

McDonald’s Through the Years* . . .

McDonald’s is your kind of place (1967)

You deserve a break today (1971)

We do it all for you (1975)

You, you’re the one (1976)

Nobody can do it like McDonald’s can (1979)

You deserve a break today (1980)

Nobody makes your day like McDonald’s can (1981)

McDonald’s and you (1983)

It’s a good time for the great taste of McDonald’s (1984)

It’s Mac Tonight (1985)

Good time, great taste (that’s why this is our place) (1988)

There’s nothing quite like a McDonald’s (1980s)

Food, folks and fun (1990)

McDonald’s today (1991)

What you want is what you get (1992)

Do you believe in magic? (1993)

Have you had your break today? (1995)

My McDonald’s (1997)

Did somebody say McDonald’s? (1997)

McDonald’s – It can happen (1990)

Larry the Leopard (1990’s)

We love to see/make you smile (2000)

Put a smile on (2000)

Make every time a good time (2002)

Smile (2002)

I’m lovin’ it (2003-present)

*Source Wikipedia

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About piblogger

Author and Host of the PI Window on The World Show on Blog Talk Radio.

One response to “McDonald’s social media gaffe (#McDstories): A reflection of brand betrayal and an erosion of customer confidence?”

  1. piblogger says :

    Here is another great commercial classic of a bygone era . . . http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RFEkfipbI3Q perhaps they should return to their roots!

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