McDonalds, for better or worse is known for their iconic sandwiches that propelled fast food into the homes of millions of Americans. Their quick meals accessible to many on the go are also well known for their poor nutritional value. The global recognition of the McDonalds brand has created a singling-out of the fast food giant (even among its direct fast food competitors) for the nutritional content of their food.
TV Specials, movies, and even celebrities have jumped on the ‘attack fast food’ bandwagon. This eventually branched out to a ‘promote healthy eating’ campaign – friendlier, more marketable, and nowhere near as negative; this campaign has traveled from Europe to North America with measurable success. Celebrity chef Jamie Oliver and First Lady Michelle Obama are among the leading voices on this front.
McDonalds PR and Marketing teams combated the attacks in a number of ways. From menu changes and preaching of personal responsibility, to reminding everyone of how much they enjoy the food and the family-time they can enjoy at their locations. McDonalds took to Twitter for a strategy to address the negative attention, but saw very different results than they were expecting.
Phase 1 of their new Twitter strategy sought to respond to those that criticized the quality of their food by highlighting the quality of their ingredients. By using #MeetTheFarmers, McDonalds put the focus on its use of fresh products, grown in the United States (different execution, but similar to what we saw Dominos do with television commercials in 2011). In the beginning, everything seemed to go smoothly, with a positive reaction from Twitter users.
When McDonalds broke into Phase 2 of the campaign, they sought to remind those of positive experiences at McDonalds. Instead, as the internet often does, users had fun at McDonald’s expense and used the opportunity to mock them and remind everyone of what McDonalds was trying to suppress with positivity. #McDStories initially seems like a statistical success, but over-run with negative commentary – drawing the attention of jokesters and unimpressed customers.
In retrospect, their mistake was changing the hashtag from #MeetTheFarmers to #McDStories. Meet-The-Farmers is generic, implies nothing, and can only promote a certain amount of activity and limits the tweets that can come in, both in quantity and quality. With little to no chance of a blow-back from this hash-tag, results were positive but quickly stale. For this reason, Social Media Manager Rick Wion determined that it did not have the impact they were looking for and ‘set about a change of course’.
News spread quickly of McDonald’s ill-fated hash-tag and drove visitors to Twitter to get involved. It only took a few hours for McDonald’s to realize that the negativity was the thing gaining traction, and quickly switched back to the old #MeetTheFarmers. Confused users looking to get involved in the #McDStories campaign shunned their return to #MeetTheFarmers and interest dwindled until the campaign was no longer successful.
A brief Twitter disaster for McDonalds is a clear reminder of carefully thinking out a strategy, its interpretations and properly plan for how people will embrace it. Surely the fast-food giant’s recovery time for a gaff as this is minimal if at all – certainly a moment of embarrassment. A smaller company or start-up may not have been nearly as lucky.