McDonald’s: Fast Food vs. Healthy Food?

When walking in the streets of almost every county one can look around and see thousands of brands: brands with their logos, slogans, which are trying to get into the minds of the people, persuade them in the belief that they- the customers, have found whatever they were looking for so long- their brand. There are different ways of looking into the definitions of a brand: legal, customer based, emotion based, etc. The one definition that I felt a connection with is by Keller “A brand is a set of mental associations held by customers, which add to the perceived value of a product or a brand.”

And really, if you think about it, we don’t buy the products or we don’t use the services because we adore their quality so much. We adore the experience; we cherish the feelings we get while in the process of buying or consuming, we create this image of what a certain brand is in our minds and follow it for a very long time. This image is what either will make us loyal customers or will make us want to stay as far from the brand as possible. One of those brands that can always bring a smile to a person’s face is the world’s largest chain of hamburger fast food restaurant McDonald’s. It was founded in the United States in 1940. Now the restaurant is serving around 68 million customers a day in 119 countries across 36,538 outlets.

McDonald: the change in the perspective of the consumer

The second largest private employer in the world McDonald’s concentration were selling fresh and juicy hamburgers, cheeseburgers, can’t-live-without chicken products, the incredible French fries, breakfast items, all kinds of soft drinks, yummy milkshakes and even desserts with a fascinating smell. With that McDonald’s was able to build a huge brand: its name knows everyone in the whole wide world. It was able to get inside the consumer’s mind and make it believe that McDonald’s was everything that he/she needed. It created a happy and kind image in the minds of consumers throughout the world and everyone was eating McDonald’s, Big Mac.
But if we really think about it, we don’t eat its spicy chicken wings because we can’t find anything that tastes better.

Statistics show that there is no taste contest that McDonald’s won, ever! So it has to be the atmosphere, the emotions, the associations we have in our minds. People were associating McDonald’s with capitalism, freedom, America. And that was all people were seeking in the 1990’s.

Fast food vs. healthy food

However, as the time went by McDonald’s felt the need of attracting more and more people. It wanted to become bigger and bigger. The only segment of the food market that McDonald’s was not covering was the “healthy” segment. Which are people who believe in eating healthy and also vegetarians. So it introduced its expanded menu. It included salads, fish, wraps, smoothies, and fruit in response to the changing consumer tastes. At first, when you hear about it, what do you think? Well, good for him right? McDonald’s was innovative; it listened to its customers and took smart marketing steps. It adapted to the culture of the new market: vegetarians and “healthy” eating people. In its advertisements and commercials, it even changed the color of its logo “M” from yellow to green. The reason is that people associate green with renewal and rebirth, also with a healthier way of living.

So we can conclude that McDonald’s decided to renew itself, maybe even its brand. Fast food vs. healthy food. But with such great sales and fame already, is it going to bring to better outcomes? Everyone must know the catastrophic renewal of Coca-Cola back in 1985. The brand, while being in the boom of its business activities and famousness, decided to change the “Cola”. It introduced “the new Cola” which its audience and consumers didn’t like at all. It had an enormous drop in sales and was going down. Eventually, they went back to the original Coca-Cola packaging and won back their consumers.

Rebirth: is it always a good idea?

Rebirth doesn’t always bring better outcomes. Wall Street Journal says that some analysts say that McDonald’s has lost its identity in an attempt to fix its image- a notion that points to the challenges for the industry at a time of growing pressure in the U.S. to respond to obesity and other health woes while continuing to boost profits. It seems that by becoming so many things: fast food vs. healthy food, McDonald’s has changed its image in the consumer’s mind. It changed in a way that they don’t know what they think or associate the brand with anymore. Howard Penney’s, who is managing director at Hedgeye Risk Management word are interesting. “Focused on trying to be all things to all people, whether it’s catering to health-minded people with oatmeal or Millennials with snack wraps. They’ve gone so far afield from their core menu that they’re not really resonating with anyone.” And going green was not the only problem Mcdonald’s was facing. Read about how Chicago McDonald’s was Facing a Consumer Fraud Class Action Lawsuit.

Look what you got!

Even though McDonald’s is trying to look healthy nowadays, people still don’t perceive it that way. The Big Mac has fewer calories in it that the salads they serve in McDonald’s restaurants. H. Penney shared his opinion by saying “McDonald’s is never going to be perceived as healthy, so for them to spend too much time on healthy items doesn’t make a lot of sense to me.” And it turns out that the salads are only 2%-3% of U.S. sales. It is not about McDonald’s not changing at all or not renewing its menu. For example, when McCafe coffee drinks were introduced they turned out to be pretty successful. But the healthier menu items were not always bringing success to the restaurant. In fact, McDonald’s dropped its Fruit & Walnut Salads from the healthier menu, because as one franchise said they were throwing away more than they were selling.

So the question indeed stays: should McDonald’s stick to what it has been doing for decades or shouldn’t?
People need different brands for their different needs. And when one brand tries to fulfill all of its customer’s pain; meaning not only the ones related to its own brand, eventually it fails. A former Marine Isaiah Stratton jogs regularly and doesn’t believe in soft drinks to the point of hating them. He said that when he goes to McDonald’s he orders a double cheeseburger and fries. He continues on by saying “If I specifically wanted a salad I’d go to Panera”. So McDonald’s has changed who it was for its consumers. Is it good? Is it bad? The time will show.

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