McDonald's latest limited-time U.S. promotion touts its icy fruit drinks, including "Pucker Up," below. Now the fast-food giant has received something of a wet kiss from an unexpected corner — The New York Times — for turning around its reputation in America.
Sunday's New York Times Magazine paid tribute to McDonald's for engineering a comeback in a feature, titled "How McDonald's Came Back Bigger Than Ever," that gives credit to its U.S. brand strategists and franchisees. And, to some extent, for succeeding on the terms of the activist opponents who've been criticizing the chain over its ingredients, menu and marketing to kids.
"For years, critics have been taking on McDonald's, questioning its practices in an increasingly health-conscious time," the article opines, then listed the usual charges about McDonald's, its food and its marketing practices: contributing to childhood obesity via its hot-button Happy Meal, using beef scraps which came to be known as "pink slime" (and which the chain has discontinued using), and ignoring the squadrons of food police hounding its every move.
The Times credits McDonald's "bottom-line success" as being unmatched by the competition. The writer, Keith O'Brien, allows as how a $2-billion annual advertising budget — throw in the obligatory reference to how the money spent by an American capitalist icon dwarfs the GDP of some weobegotten small country; in this case, it was Aruba — helps McDonald's reach its "bottom-line" goals.
There's no mention of how many jobs McDonald's creates and sustains in an era when joblessness is the huge vulnerability of the U.S. economic recovery, or of how its still-affordable prices help millions of consumers around the world eat every day amid financial conditions that continue to be difficult in many places.
The story quotes McDonald's U.S. CMO Neil Golden as being concerned about getting the "holdouts" into McDonald's fold both by continuing to improve its food as well as by changing the way consumers feel about the chain. In that regard, the company's restaurant-design makeover has been crucial: 3,000 McDonald's have been redesigned in recent years, and another 1,000 are scheduled to be physically redone this year.
The newly designed McDonald's realize 6- to 7-percent sales gains over the market's increase.
Thus setting the stage for still more growth for the brand and, perhaps in another couple of years, another somewhat-appreciative magazine story.
[Image: DDB via I Believe in Advertising]