McDonald’s Personality Disorder

McDonalds needs a psychiatrist. We’re beyond talk therapy here. There is some deep-seated personality disorder that seems to require some serious medication.

The chain, under siege for selling low-quality, bad for you food, is using their brand to test a “futuristic, French-style McDonald’s” called “McCafe.” An article in the New York Business Journal describes the new concept as having “high-tech touch screens with a European-designed kitchen, touting 100 percent ground beef and French-style pastries.”

Because when we think of McDonald’s, don’t we all think of French pastry?

The article tells us that “McDonald’s has… been hustling to keep up with changing customer demands and tastes, as well as the popularity of fast-casual competitors like Panera, Shake Shack and Smashburger — all known for their fresh offerings and modern motif.”  Yes, we know. They’ve also been losing business to fresh casual places like Panera Bread and Tender Greens.

We must ask ourselves a fundamental branding question here. Should McDonald’s fight back by following trends they’ve clearly missed already? Indeed, the article states that “The “McCafe”, as it’s called, is part of a new strategy in which McDonald’s is taking a cue from the burgeoning fast-casual category, where much of the food — both new and familiar menu items — is made fresh.”

There seems to be nothing in their Brand DNA to suggest that an upscale version of downscale place will succeed for McDonald’s.

The company would be far better off with a two prong strategy of building a better version of McDonald’s coupled with the introduction of new concepts with entirely new brand names.

In current units, they could reimagine the ordering process, experimenting with technology to improve speed and service. (NOT to slow down operations the way they did with the recent Create Your Taste kiosk fiasco.) Most importantly, they need to take a long, hard look at their menu and simplify, simplify, simplify. Embracing their original brand ideals of good enough burgers served with great fries and shakes in a fun environment would be a good way to start.

As far as line extensions go, there’s just too much baggage in the McDonald’s brand. It should be obvious that the single most serious flaw in the new McCafe is both the brand name and any holdover food items from the parent company. With their massive purchasing power, incredible operational expertise, and an impressive roster of ad agencies and consultants, it would seem that McDonald’s could come up with some killer, leading edge (not follower) concepts that don’t start with “Mc.”

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