McDonald’s on why debunking food myths is a ‘job that will never be done’

McDonald’s marketing boss Alistair Macrow believes the increasing power of social media platforms has made it easier for myths around what is in its food to spread.

McDonald’s says it is determined to further increase brand trust and fight myths that roam social media about the sourcing and provenance of its products, as it launches a new brand campaign.

The campaign, created by Leo Burnett London, launches on Friday (10 February) and looks at how the fast food brand’s beef burgers are made. It is part of its overarching ‘Good to Know’ myth-busting campaign, which aims to instill trust in its food in the UK market.

Following on from McDonald’s most recent advert focused on its Chicken McNuggets, the ad shows McDonald’s employee Steve on a bus in the countryside giving his cynical travellers a whistle-stop tour of the brand’s quality control process, before the voiceover concludes: “So, from start to finish, there’s nothing but beef in our burgers – and a pinch of salt and pepper. As everyone can now testify.”

Speaking to Marketing Week, the brand’s chief marketing and communications officer Alistair Macrow says McDonald’s has been on an almost 10-year journey to “consistently communicate the truth” behind its food.

“For us to continue to make progress in getting people to trust us, we needed a new language and to challenge [these myths] head on, rather than just telling good stories. We thought it was a good idea to put those myths out there and then answer them. We thought it was quite a brave move, as we were admitting these myths were there,” he says.

Some of the things we found [on social media] have been, quite frankly, crazy. But once it’s been viewed a couple of million times by people, that starts to become real in people’s minds.

Alistair Macrow, McDonald’s

Even though the brand has always faced rumours around its ingredients, for example that its Chicken McNuggets are made up of beaks and other bird parts, he believes social media has made it easier for people to spread these myths.

“We sell incredibly affordable food, and people make assumptions. We noticed with social media growing and becoming more powerful, it’s been easier for people to spread these myths. Some of the things we found have been, quite frankly, crazy. But once it’s been viewed a couple of million times by people, that starts to become real in people’s minds,” he explains.

He acknowledges that social media can also be used for good. For example, while McDonald’s previously focused on mothers, the brand is now determined to find new ways of communicating with millennials – and social platforms have proven to be a popular way to do this.

So far, the brand has partnered with various YouTube influencers that have a large, young following and a keen interest in food, such as Jack Maynard and Barry Lewis from Jamie Oliver’s FoodTube.

“Trying to talk to millennials in their channels in an authentic way is difficult for a brand. But if people they trust become the mediator between the two, the whole thing becomes a lot more powerful.”

And its communication approach seems to be working, according to McDonald’s. At the end of 2016, the brand finished with the highest trust rating it has ever seen, more than doubling over the course of a decade. Nevertheless, Macrow isn’t complacent.

He concludes: “As soon as we stop talking about it, the myths will come out again and people will create their own story that will fill the space for us. So our job will never be done.”



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  1. Nicole Sayegh 12 Feb 2017

    Ever since the advent of the “Supersize Me” documentary and even before then McDonald’s food quality has been called to question; from pink slime to chicken beaks being used to make their nuggets(as the article points out). Thus the ‘Good to Know’ advertising campaign for the UK is meant to dispel unwanted myths about the McDonald brand is heavily useful in this age of social media. Since with the furtherance of social media usage so too has the myths about McDonald’s quality of food become widespread, since as the article points out “once it’s been viewed a couple of million times by people, [it] starts to become real in people’s minds”. Leading to Leo Burnett London launching on Friday (10 February) a campaign about and how the fast food brand’s beef burgers are made; wherein a McDonalds employee drives cynical customers across the countryside to show them where their food sources come from and to further drive home the idea that McDonalds uses responsible food sources. As well, McDonalds according to the article is now shifting their marketing from moms to millennials, an idea that I believe would be most beneficial for them especially when it comes to revenue generated from college students with disposable income. To do so, McDonalds is enlisting the help of popular Youtube influencers to showcase their brand but I believe that they should take this idea one step further by using subliminal marketing in Netflix originals since millennials are the highest demographic among the cable ‘cord-cutting’ movement.

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