Fast food giant McDonald’s attempted to turn around its recent lackluster financial performance with a creative marketing effort: A 24-hour campaign across 24 cities in 24 countries. Unsurprisingly, the event took place on March 24.
The hamburger franchise has been struggling; they recently reported its first decline in sales in 12 years. In January, McDonald’s reported $4.7 billion in annual profits, a 14% year-over-year decline. The fast food company hasn’t reported a positive sales quarter in the United States since 2013.
Global same-store sales, a key metric when evaluating the health of a restaurant, fell by 1% year-over-year. In February, same-store sales declined 1.7% across the globe and an astonishing 4% in the United States.
With its financials in disarray, McDonald’s tapped Steve Easterbrook to replace Don Thompson at the beginning of this year.
Feeling the Love
In March, the company launched its biggest marketing initiative since the now famous “I’m lovin’ it” of more than a decade ago. Executives hoped the effort would connect with an ever-changing fast food market.
The marketing tactic, dubbed “24 hours of joy,” was a worldwide public relations extravaganza for the fast food company. Among the highlights:
- A 20-foot-wide coffee cup in Sydney, Australia filled with plastic balls that commuters could dive into.
- A toll booth in the Philippines converted to a drive-thru that offered people a free breakfast.
- A pajama party held in Italy.
- A fashion show featuring the Swedish national ski team in Stockholm.
- A surprise concert on a London double-decker bus with pop star Jessie J.
The jury is still out on whether or not that $40 million effort was a success. However, marketers can learn some valuable lessons from the effort by McDonald’s.
Thinking Outside of the Box is Still a Virtue
Sometimes the best solutions are the ones that are not immediately obvious. It’s frequently the case that off-the-beaten-path strategies that can yield the most profitable return on investment.
While it’s certainly true few companies have the level of working capital McDonald’s invested in this effort, that doesn’t mean small-to-medium-sized businesses (SMBs) can’t employ some creative problem solving to address their own sales slumps.
When All Else Fails, Entertain
The McDonald’s effort was filled with entertainment. It featured concerts, parties and free food.
Business owners and managers who want to learn from the McDonald’s effort can learn this: Entertainment typically leads to positive PR.
Think about it: While people were talking about the concert in London, they were mentioning it was provided by McDonald’s. When people were attending a pajama party in Italy, they were discussing the fact it was hosted by McDonald’s.
Companies that successfully entertain people (and make the event connect relevantly to their brand) also succeed in building brand name recognition. It’s called a “target audience” for a reason. J
Consider the Down Side
The marketing effort by McDonald’s occurred at the same time the company is roiled in controversy over how much it pays its employees.
What kind of message does the company send the public when it’s spending $40 million on free concerts while the people who are literally on the front lines of its service are paid a wage that is at or below the poverty level?
It’s important for marketers to take a step back and think about how others might judge the campaign at its very worst and how those opinions could undermine their efforts.