Q&A with Matt Biespiel, senior director for global brand strategy at McDonald’s

Cannes 2014: Fresh from being awarded the ‘creative marketer of the year’ award at Cannes Lions 2014, McDonald’s senior director for global brand strategy Matt Biespiel talks to Marketing Week about data failings, why television is still king and why doing nothing is sometimes the best policy on social media. 

Matt Biespiel

Marketing Week (MW): What is the focus for McDonald’s in terms of marketing activity? 

Matt Biespiel (MB): We try to appeal to families, but also to the emerging millennial generation, so a lot of our attention has been about how to strengthen the brand’s relevancy with millennials and that is taking on a whole number of different forms and is making us rethink some of our media choices. In some respects it’s also making us rethink how we communicate. 

An example is what we are doing around the World Cup this year. We have a programme called McDonald’s GOL! where we got 12 artists from around the world and asked them to depict the glory of the game of football on our fries packaging and we developed an augmented reality game on the box. It’s a non-traditional way for us to communicate. 

MW: What is your social strategy going forward? 

MB: It’s an emerging strategy where we are trying to learn as fast as we can. Social has to be at the centre of more and more of our creative ideas, it can’t be about saying something and amplifying it with social. As we move towards mass personalisation, social has to play a central role at the core idea level. Like everyone else we are learning about the best social tools to learn, when and how and we are not there yet. 

MW: What learnings can you take from emerging advertising tools on social? 

MB: The vast majority of the investment and tactical execution of our marketing campaigns happens in 120 markets around the world and on a global level we look at strategic direction for the organisation, so in social we are learning restraint in terms of the number of messages and how we react and respond to conversations – both on favourable and non-favourable conversations. 

For example, P Diddy tweeted about how wonderful the McDonald’s GOL! film is and our social people said we should jump in, talk about it and respond. Our thought was to let the community decide where the conversation goes, we don’t need to get involved. Restraint is important.  

MW: Where are the opportunities to capture data for the brand? 

MB: We are not as advanced as you may think we are at collecting data. It’s part of the new digital plan that is still in development. We need to be a brand that people will trust with their data and we believe we can use the data to make interactions more personal. If I know you are in the restaurant I can reach you by name, if I see that you purchase certain products with great frequency I can ask you if you want the usual and I can see the patterns and suggest products. 

MW: McDonald’s reported disappointing quarterly results in its home market in the US recently, what is being done to tackle this? 

MB: The main focus in the US is to understand the customer behaviours better and find ways to improve in many of the basic things that we do. Service and speed of that service is key and there is work underway to ensure that is as flawless as possible. 

MW: What are the key channels for media spend? 

MB: We are still a heavy user of television, viewership of TV is up in many parts of the world and for a mass brand like ours it is still very important, as is out of home. In markets that are car friendly radio is part of the mix and as you expect more of our dollars are being channelled into the digital space and that has been an increasing amount in the last few years. 

MW: The brand has recently opened an innovation lab in Silicon Valley, what can we expect in terms of innovation?

MB: There is work under way to develop a series of ideas where social is at the core of the idea and on a grand scale. We believe that we can have an impact on making people see fun in our brand. We have this idea that we could create a series of ‘gifs of joy’ to get people excited about the brand. 

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