Everyone's favorite burger and fry guy made lots of news last week. First, there was that egregiously vile image of what is allegedly "chicken nugget batter" (aka, mechanically separated chicken) that went viral. Whether McDonald's actually makes food using this crap is still unclear. What is clear is that my children will never have to endure another chicken McNugget again.
Then, McDonald's went on the offense and created a hashtag campaign using #McDStories as the hashtag. The expectation was that supporters would share their warm and fuzzy stories of enjoying grease and fat with their families, maybe playing in the filthy, dirty playground as a child, perhaps of enjoying a birthday party in an unsanitary McD's basement.
But that's not what actually happened. What did occur is that haters of the brand began utilizing the hashtag to spew venomous tweets at them. Tweets like:
To be clear, this post is not a commentary on McDonald's per se. I've been known to make a person or two late for a train as a result of a near-insane craving for chicken strips while pregnant. And for some reason nothing hits the spot quite like a quarter pounder (no onions, extra pickles) while on a road trip. I never feel well after indulging (the sodium?) and I always regret it, but short-term memory and all that jazz seems to prevail when I see those golden arches under the right circumstances.
But I've always believed McDonald's to be a leader in their industry (whatever you may think of said industry) since it's my understanding that they're the king of burgers (king of burgers... get it?;). It appears I was wrong.
In light of this latest PR fail, I'm seriously wondering who is in charge of social media over there. I mean, ask any recently graduated intern at any agency what the number one rule is if you're a brand utilizing social and they'll all tell you - understand brand sentiment. Never ask a question you don't know the answer to unless you're in the mood for a good, old fashioned massacring. Because just like in real life, anything a brand says in "public" is there for the taking. And in the case of the #McDStories incident, take they did.
Here's the thing. This isn't a lesson on what McDonald's might have done differently or what brands can take away from this debacle. I'll leave that to the Mashables and HuffPos of the world. But I will say this - why does McDonald's insist on reaching into a space they don't belong in? I've seen the brand talk about their salads, I've heard them advertise white meat. I've read the words "well-balanced" and "nutrition" on their website and think, why? Why try and be something that you're not? No one goes to McDonald's for a salad unless they're with someone who's having a Big Mac attack. And while I'm glad to see the smaller portion of fries and the apples in the Happy Meal (that we grab while on the road a couple of times a year), I'm not thinking McDonald's is any good for my kids. I'm thinking it's convenient. It's fast. It's food.
So McDonald's, there you have it. You can't fool us consumers. Even if we eat your pink slime once in a while and your over-fried fries, we don't feel good about it. We know it's crap. Just ask anyone. Oops - you already did.