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Polyester, the Internet, and the Rise of McCool

You may not have heard, but “McDonald’s”: “is”: “in”: “talks”: “with”: “some”: of the most influential purveyors of “hip” around – namely P. Diddy, Tom Hilfiger, and Russell Simmons to name a few – with the plan to re-envision their employee uniforms.

All this to change their image from a “fat purveyor to phat icon”: according to Ad Age. Sounds like a big order with an even bigger price tag, an estimated $80 million US.
This may be a good move to attract youth to flip burgers, but McDonald’s has missed the McBoat on where teens live and what they consider cool. Have you seen the new McDonald’s web site with their cool downloads and vibrant youth community? I didn’t think so, because there isn’t one. In a move that is so fundamental to their marketing and new image, how could they forget the web? Think email, downloads, video streaming of concerts, podcasting, blogs. None of these are currently used by McDonald’s in North America. The opportunity to connect with the target demographic – the Generation Y crowd, youth 12 to 24 years old – is huge. In the states, Gen Y are more than 57 million strong and are the largest consumer group in the history of the US. As an example of Internet usage in Canada, 84 percent of Gen Y kids are on the Internet.
McDonald’s has done some major music deals in the past few years. They are attempting to bring the brand into the hearts of youth. They struck a deal with “MTV”: to be the sole sponsor of “MTV Advance Warning”:, a global program that focuses on emerging new talent. This is a first for the MTV network and McDonald’s, with the program available in 160 countries.
What McDonald’s is doing in the interactive space can be considered minuscule at best. They have developed dedicated microsites across MTV Europe’s eleven local web sites featuring artists’ profiles, biographies, screensavers, and wallpaper. This is disappointing in many ways and completely misses the opportunity to capture the coveted youth market – McDonald’s share of their mind, wallet, and lifestyle.
McDonald’s also signed an exclusive deal in September 2004 with Destiny’s Child, which plays into their four marketing “languages” – music, fashion, entertainment, and sports. Again, these four areas are also huge on the Internet but still no significant moves from McDonald’s online.
When selling the brand inside, it is critical to help employees make a powerful emotional connection to the products you sell. When employees care about and believe in your brand (even its new positioning), they’re motivated to work harder and their loyalty to the company increases. This reservoir of good will can then be transferred to every customer these empowered employees touch. Now that is a powerful marketing program.
To attract the youth and to communicate that you understand their individuality, flare, and what drives them daily, you need to be where the action is – the web. There are few multi-nationals who have the huge marketing “war chest” or desperate need to attract and retain the youth of today. Without a strategic marketing program that leverages the unique capabilities and interactivity of the web, McDonald’s may just continue to fade away.