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McDonald's Gets Social With Moms
by Mark J. Miller
June 11, 2010

Brandchannel’s weekly Digital Watch feature takes a deeper look at brands’ digital strategy. Our latest case study, McDonald’s, takes a multi-tiered approach to digital branding that cozies up to moms to reinforce its nutritional, family values.
Next time you go to McDonald’s, you might want to check your Facebook account on your phone. The two brand giants are working together to create a geo-location application that will allow your friends on Facebook to see what you’re up to. And if you’re having a Big Mac, you might want to send out a status update with an image of the luscious “Two all beef patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles, onions on a sesame seed bun” or one of the other products.

This partnership marks the first dive into geolocation for both McDonald’s and Facebook, which is playing catch up to the work done by such social outfits as Foursquare, which has created geolocation programs for Zagat, Starbucks, Pepsi, and MTV.

Of course, McDonald’s is only the beginning of Facebook’s plans to use the application but you might as well start with the big kahuna. Mickey D’s serves up its meals to more than 47 million people around the world daily. That’s like the entire country of Spain walking through a restaurant’s doors in one day.


McDonald’s uses its digital presence in other various ways as well. Its website,, is fronted by a pile of seemingly Stonehenge-size Chicken McNuggets that can overwhelm. But the message throughout is a soft sell of the place as a warm, welcoming place with plenty of nutritional options that a mother would love to send her kid to.

One of the most intriguing larger items that line the bottom of the home page is Moms’ Quality Correspondents, which links to an area highlighting a group of mothers who are given “unprecedented access” to the McDonald’s “food supply system.” It’s an ingenious tool to cast the restaurant through the kindest prism of a mother’s eyes. It’s also a subtle message that it’s aware of concerns over childhood obesity, and reinforces its social media outreach to one of the toughest forces facing any brand today: mommy bloggers.

These "correspondents" take a field trip deep into the McDonald’s system and come out – surprise! – smiling about the experience. After the tour, a stay-at-home Nebraska mother of four writes, “I know I have options to feed my family a nutritious meal out, just as I am able to feed them a nutritious meal at home.”

But the site doesn’t just sell its warm fuzzies front and center. Also, buried in the Our Story link on the left-hand side of the homepage are sections spelling out its corporate social responsibility initiatives, in sections labeled Our Communities and Values in Action. (Its green and social commitments are details on their own website, too). At the start of the Our Communities section on its official site, it's quickly pointed out that “McDonald’s is proud to be a part of the communities we serve. Through involvement in youth sports, local charities, and events that inspire the world, giving back is an essential part of the way we operate every day.”

One of the examples it serves up of helping communities is the annual McDonald’s All American High School Basketball Games in which the company gets all of the best high school basketball players in the nation together to play a game to raise money for the other major investment it makes in communities: the exceptional Ronald McDonald House Charities, which “provides a home near hospitals to families who need a place to stay while their child receives medical treatment.” There are Ronald McDonald Houses strewn about the country, close to major hospitals and research facilities.

The Ronald McDonald House has its own Facebook page with more than 33,000 fans and then it appears that each one decides whether it wants to have a Twitter account or not to share its news.

McDonald’s does push its own social-media offerings on the bottom of each and every page of the site, connecting people to its main Facebook page and its more than 2.2 million fans as well as its Twitter page, which has more than 29,000 followers. On the Facebook page, there is a “Local” tab that, when clicked, asks for your ZIP code. The site then promises that it will have more local information soon on its pages.

The local aspect comes into play on the McDonald’s site as well with a “Locations” tab that gives you the address of restaurants around the area as well as detailed directions and a place to apply for a job at that location based on the ZIP code a visitor enters.

Tweets from the Golden Arches say such things as “$1 any size drinks are not nationwide, but many areas offer it” and “Be on the lookout for Hello Kitty Happy Meal toys starting end of November through the second week of December this year.” McDonald’s actually follows more than 8,500 people on Twitter so that is clearly part of its strategy in building up its audience there. The company has six people assigned to promote it in the Twitterverse.

The company is somewhat challenged on the world’s second biggest search engine and a stealth social network – YouTube – where another user is camping on the McDonalds brand name in his rather rude channel, making its official YouTube channel somewhat difficult to find.

The company has come a long way since the McDonald brothers – Richard and Maurice – opened the first one in 1940 in San Bernardino, California. The company didn’t really take off, though, until Ray Kroc opened a franchise in Des Plaines, Illinois, in 1955. It was the ninth McDonald’s in existence but it became the company’s home base and template for all future restaurants since Kroc eventually bought out the McDonald brothers, incorporated the company, and led the aggressive global expansion, so that it became a symbol, viewed both positively and negatively, of the Western world’s commercial priorities. Now there are more than 31,000 of the places spread across 119 countries and the company raked in $22.7 billion last year. Not bad for a recession.

And of course its product line has changed considerably since then, though it’s serving up basic burgers – more than 4 million sold daily in the U.S.! In recent years, McDonald’s has answered critics of the nutritional value of its products (such as Morgan Spurlock, who directed and starred in the illuminating documentary Super Size Me) by introducing new products such as Premium Southwest Salad with Crispy Chicken and Premium Bacon Ranch Salad. It’s also re-engineered some of the ones that it already has. The company also uses its site to list all of the nutritional details of each and every one of its products, which all also get their own pages so you can get a nice close look and explanation of a BBQ Snack Wrap (Crispy) and anything else you long for when online and not near an actual McDonald’s.

And no matter if you’re in a McDonald’s or not, it appears the company is doing all it can to give consumers a “total McDonald’s experience” and stay connected with them by pushing its brand digitally to consumers, whether through its geolocation partnership with Facebook or its six employees filling up your Twitter page. McDonald’s seems to be making a successful run at not allowing its branding to leave consumer eyeballs for too long, no matter where they turn.


Mark J. Miller writes a daily sports column for Yahoo! Sports and is a contributing writer to Crain's BtoB's Media Business magazine. His work has appeared in National Geographic Adventure, ESPN, The Washington Post,, I.D., and Glamour, among others.

*Due to the constantly changing environment of websites, some reviews may no longer reflect the current website for this brand.
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