McDonald’s is revamping its strategy and trying to take its image into the 21st Century. I hope the new Hamburgler (see reactions on CNBC) doesn’t represent that vision, but I’m afraid he may. This new character is creepy and looks like he was voted most likely to be smoking cigarettes in the alley behind McDonalds and tossing butts into dirty pools of water with a deliberate flip.
I think they have it all wrong. Rather than revamp their menu with California cuisine and create HBO wannabe characters, they need to embrace their image and go totally retro. Bring back the Big Mac to the size it used to be. Clean up the ball pits. Simplify the menu. Make the shakes less gritty and more milky smooth. Skip the quinoa and the kale, we don’t see Carl’s Junior or In-and-Out going after the health market. If people want healthy food, that is a different place. McDonald’s is fast food. McDonald’s is an experience.
Put the marketing test budget into testing how well better versions of current favorites will fly. The Big Mac has a favor signature no other burger shares. It is uniquely MacDonald’s. The Mac has unfortunately been put through the shrink machine over the years. Let’s keep the flavor and make it with bigger patties and buns again. Go back to red vinyl and chrome. Serve milkshakes with the wrapper still on the top of the straw. Build buildings with big Golden Arches. Go for the kitchy fun.
And tell stories about relationships with McDonald’s. Boomers have a relationship with the brand, and even if it skipped a generation, those grandparents will be around for a long time, so they have an opportunity to create new relationships with their grandchildren.
All the current tinkering is a waste of time. Look at Radio Shack. If McDonald’s doesn’t want to be Radio Shack they need to go big, bold and be consistent in delivering a clear, consistent, quality, experience. Don’t waffle. Don’t compete with ideas. Create the best fast food burger experience available. Make Burger King, Jack-inthe-Box, Carl’s Junior and Wendy’s rethink their approach because McDonald’s isn’t just ubiquitous, but because it serves the best food and provides the most engaging experiences and creates the best relationships. The future of McDonald’s lies in the past and making it the best past that can be imagined now and in the future.
As for the Hamburgler, Disney still does very well with well crafted characters with big fake, friendly heads. Update the design but don’t break with the past. Just make better costumes. Again, look at Disney, the 1950s Mickey Mouse wasn’t nearly as well crafted as the current mouse that trots around the Parks. A better Hamburgler outfit is called for, but let him be kid friendly. Jack-in-the-Box owns the ironic stoner 21st Century. McDonald’s needs to get back the mid-century vibe. And hey, the management issue isn’t about a burger thief any way, it’s about the disappearance of Mayor McCheese. Make him the CEO. He’ll get his two all beef patties special sauce lettuce cheese pickles onions on a sesame seed bun right.
Daniel W. Rasmus
Daniel W. Rasmus, Founder and Principal Analyst of Serious Insights, is an internationally recognized speaker on the future of work and education. He is the author of several books, including Listening to the Future and Management by Design.