Mc-price cuts are no remedy

Was it just me, or did the recent article where McDonald’s claimed that a consumer shift towards healthier living was a major factor in its spiralling revenues (MW January 9), appear as nothing more than a convenient smoke screen to hide its sliding brand appeal?

The same customers that are saying “no” to Big Macs are still queuing up to buy a slice of pizza, share a tub of Häagen-Dazs or gorge on a chocolate bar, none of which strike me as particularly healthy alternatives. In fact seven out of ten of the top-selling food product innovations in the US last year were high-fat, super-indulgence variants!

The real problem is that the McDonald’s brand has lost relevance with the modern consumer. What was once an exciting proposition – one of affordable eating out for the family and convenient snacking – is no longer unique and has been overtaken by a wave of bad publicity about its products and social responsibility.

Cutting the cost of a burger isn’t really an innovative response to this. If the car industry had maintained the same pace of proposition innovation then we would all still be driving around in Ford Anglias… just with comfier seats!

From our experience of revitalising moribund brands we would not write off McDonald’s too soon. Behind the brand lurks a formidable business system and skill-set. When these are realigned behind a more customer-centric set of brands and food propositions based on the way we live today, not 20 years ago, I believe McDonald’s will once again own a growing share of our custom.

Doing this will, however, demand a letting go of many cherished traditions and a willingness to experiment with new brands and formats that goes way beyond the “Mc-ing” of a noun.

Alistair Swanson

Partner

The Webb Partnership

London SW1

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