Ronald McDonald resisting all efforts to force him into retirement

Posted on Mon May 24 2010


Ronald McDonald isn't going anywhere anytime soon, according to McDonald's CEO Jim Skinner, who flatly refused to put the burger-peddling clown out to pasture at a recent shareholders' meeting. For those of you who don't know what he's referring to, a group called Corporate Accountability International has called for Ronald's retirement, calling him "a pied piper drawing youngsters all over the world to food that is high in fat, sodium and calories," and insisting that he is "sending insidious messages to young people." McDonald's thinks its critics are overreacting, and to be fair, CAI obviously isn't familiar with the company's psychedelic era, which was probably worse for children than any of its current marketing. It's also worth mentioning that a mascot is only as good or bad as the product it represents, and going after Ronald McDonald isn't nearly as useful as targeting the nutritional content and business practices of his parent company. That said, if McDonald's could put Ronald to work shilling healthier food choices for kids, that would be great, too. As long as they don't go too retro on his costume.

—Posted by David Kiefaber

Painter looks at American fast food in the Middle East landscape

Posted on Fri Apr 30 2010


It's been 48 years since Andy Warhol demonstrated that an ordinary American food brand could be worth thinking about other than when you're hungry. Now, Eric Robert Parnes is up to much the same thing, albeit with work that's a bit more provocative than a can of Campbell's Condensed Tomato Soup.
  In his paintings, Parnes, a 31-year-old Iranian American artist, portrays brands like McDonald's, KFC and Starbucks open for business in Middle Eastern countries. Each of his canvases features a group of women in chadors, their backs turned, regarding the fast-food outlets with thoughts that are anyone's guess. Parnes—whose far-ranging work also includes gold-leafed artillery helmets and nudes equipped with gas masks—says his intent was not to be critical of American fast food's presence in Muslim countries but to "explore … the dynamics involving Western and Eastern cultures." And for better or worse, Western "culture" these days usually means fast food.
  "Aside from the American flag, people identify the United States via our products' visual logos," Parnes tells BrandFreak. "These brands have become visual representations that elicit an immediate response of recognition. It really doesn't even matter that Domino's or Starbucks is spelled out in another language. All we need is a logo to recognize the company."
  So, good news for all you fast-food marketers out there: Your logo works just as well in Riyadh as it does in Rochester.

—Posted by Robert Klara


County in California looking to ban McDonald's Happy Meal toys

Posted on Tue Apr 27 2010


Leave it to the crunchy granola types in California to rain on the Happy Meal parade. County officials in Silicon Valley want to outlaw toys from the famous (or infamous, depending on your perspective) McDonald's kids meals. That way, children won't want them as much, and they won't be as fat. Or so the thinking goes. Santa Clara County is proposing a ban on toys in any restaurant meal with more than 485 calories, more than 600 milligrams of salt or high sugar or fat content, according to the Los Angeles Times. If the proposal passes, it won't affect much—there are only about a dozen fast-food restaurants within the county's jurisdiction. But its broader implications, and its first-of-a-kind status, have the California Restaurant Association and others in a tizzy about government interference in action-figure and mini-stuffed-animal distribution. For Hollywood studios, it would be disastrous if they couldn't link their Ice Ages, Shreks and Alvin and the Chipmunks with the caloric, pint-sized meals. Even though Disney got out of that business when it didn't renew its long-term McDonald's deal, other movie makers rushed to fill the void, keeping the McD's calendar packed with entertainment promotions. We'll keep an eye on the situation, so check back for the vote.

—Posted by T.L. Stanley

Just looking at fast-food logos makes people anxious and foolish

Posted on Mon Apr 19 2010


It's not bad enough that fast food is blamed for everything from obesity to heart disease and hypertension. Now we find out it might be messing with our minds as well. New research from scientists in Canada suggests that people who are shown fast-food logos become increasingly impatient and are less inclined to save money, preferring immediate gratification over greater future return. The Toronto University study (PDF link here) looked at the behavior of 57 volunteers, some of whom were shown logos from fast-food chains like McDonald's and KFC. In one test, the speed at which participants read a passage was measured before and after looking at the logos, with readers speeding up after an eyeful of the Golden Arches. Another experiment asked participants if they wanted a small amount of cash immediately or a larger sum in a week's time. Those who saw the logos opted for the smaller amount served up immediately. If the mere sight of a logo creates such results, I'm not sure I even want to know what effect all those new espresso-based drinks at McDonald's are having on customer behavior.

—Posted by Noreen O'Leary

Allow McDonald's Frankie the Fish to serenade you all day long

Posted on Mon Mar 8 2010


"Give Me Back That Filet-O-Fish" is the famous jingle sung by Frankie the Fish in those McDonald's TV commercials. If you can't get enough of the jingle (and the many parodies it inspired), there is now a way to listen to it over and over again, other than watching YouTube. Actual wall-mounted Frankie the Fish gag gifts are now being sold online and at retailers like Kmart, Bed Bath & Beyond, and major drugstore chains. Created by Gemmy Industries, the Frankie replica is motion-activated and plays the original McDonald's jingle. But here's the best part: The product also includes a "club remix" of the song. It's a gift that just keeps on giving.

—Posted by Elena Malykhina

Which fast-food chain will be first to come out with a $0 menu?

Posted on Wed Dec 9 2009


How bad are things when people can't even afford a Big Mac? This week, the world's largest hamburger chain said same-store sales dropped 0.6 percent in November, the second consecutive monthly decline. (The news comes less than a week after Yum! Brands, parent of KFC, Pizza Hut and Taco Bell, projected weaker-than-expected fourth-quarter numbers.) Good luck to McDonald's CEO Jim Skinner, who promised investors "a disciplined pricing strategy," even as he released the disappointing numbers. Competitors like Burger King are offering a new double cheeseburger for $1, and Dunkin' Donuts has a new 99-cent menu. Taco Bell, which last month settled a lawsuit filed by rapper 50 Cent over appropriating his persona to push its tacos and burritos, has been out there already with items priced less than $1. So much for the fast-food sector, one of the few bright spots in the economy this year.

—Posted by Noreen O'Leary

The French don't hate McDonald's as much as you might expect

Posted on Wed Oct 28 2009


Mona Lisa, meet Ronald McDonald. The Golden Arches, in an effort to be absolutely everywhere, said earlier this month that it would open a location under the Louvre. This was met head on with cries of cultural heresy. It was immediately assumed by the American press that the French would hate the idea—after all, we assume the French hate everything, right? However, a recent New York Times article revealed that the French actually like their McDo, as they call it. (It sounds like "McDough" when you apply an Inspector Clouseau accent.) The fast-food giant's menu in France features Le Big Mac, which is the country's No.1 burger, and Le Royal Deluxe (sorry, Pulp Fiction fans, it's not a Royale with Cheese). It also offers Le Big Tasty chicken sandwich (which sounds like something Pepé Le Pew would be into), the Little Mozza salad and beer. No word on when the McBordeaux will be rolling out.

—Posted by Kenneth Hein

McDonald's wants your best hamburger slogan in just two words

Posted on Fri Oct 2 2009


"Angus Amore," "Maximum Yummy" and "Angus Rocks" are among the 295 suggested two-word billboard slogans that ordinary people have supplied as part of a campaign involving the McDonald's Angus Third Pounder. The Golden Arches invite you to submit your own golden ad ideas at The fast-food chain recently rented out 13 programmable signs in Kansas City, Mo., where it held its first "Angus Day." For 24 hours on Sept. 24, two-word slogans submitted by creative customers spent 10 glorious seconds each on the video billboards. (Sorry, there's no bigger prize than that being offered.) Ronald McDonald was on hand to greet fans, and also milk cows (seriously). In a statement, director of marketing Randy Bates said many of McDonald's young customers "probably never pick up a newspaper." Two-word billboard slogans seemed like the best way to tell them that this "Magnificent Mouthful" is "Within Reach." What more could you want from a "Dinner Winner?"

—Posted by Sarah Knapp

Forget 'Food, folks and fun,' now it's all about moms and meat

Posted on Thu Sep 3 2009

Test Kitchen Compressed

Marketers have turned into the Eddie Haskells of the media world, sweet-talking blog-happy mothers to further their cause. The latest example: McDonald's has kicked off a program for curious moms who wonder what they're really feeding their children. The fast-food chain has recruited four women, dubbed as the Baltimore Washington McDonald’s Moms Quality Correspondents (MQC), to witness how burgers are made and served on a daily basis. In the process, the women have to capture and share their experiences online via photos, videos and journals.  The most recent journey, for instance, involved a trip to Keystone Foods (a McDonald's beef supplier), where the women toured a facility in white coats and hair-nets, learning about "quality and food safety regulations." Ultimately, the chain hopes to drive consumers to the MQC site and get everyone excited about it's newly launched Angus Third Pounder (and the real beef that it’s made with). Is it working? Judging by their online journals, these fledgling journos appear to be lovin' it.

—Posted by Elena Malykhina

It's getting to where it's weird just to speak your fast-food order

Posted on Wed Aug 26 2009

There are many ways to order a meal at a fast-food chain. You can read from the menu, ask a server to list the options, or you can sing your way through an order like the guys in this video do. The singing order thing has been big for a while, and McDonald's got some free publicity (not that it needs it) when two guys and a girl were captured ordering a meal to the tune of Jason Mraz's "I'm Yours." Their version, "I'm Hungry," consists of lyrics that correspond to the song's original beat. Inspired by the trio, the server joins in on the singing, and the gathering at McDonald's turns into one big party. While at first the video appears to be a viral effort for McDonald's, it's actually a project by a New Zealand health organization called FLEP. The video shows members of "Random Acts," a group that spontaneously performs drama and musical acts in their community—and apparently at fast-food restaurants.

—Posted by Elena Malykhina



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