The Chain Gang

Burger Chain Officially Runs Out of Ideas

The good ol' days of McDonald's marketing.
The good ol’ days of McDonald’s marketing. Photo: McDonald’s

Oh, poor McDonald’s. It’s just one issue after another. The biggest problem: These damn millennials, whom Ronald & Co. still just cannot figure out. How do you convince them to buy Big Macs? Why don’t more 25 year-olds want to eat Filets ‘o Fish?

These are the big questions facing the chain (as it has been for a while), per a report in The Wall Street Journal, and it is just stumped. Maybe DIY burger toppings? Maybe getting rid of some underperforming menu items? Who even knows anymore? So now the company is asking third-party marketers to pitch them schemes on exactly how to snag a younger demographic:

The burger baron is seeking help creating “a Big Idea” that “generates significant support for a charity” and “engages Millennials to support this charity by speaking directly to their philanthropic priorities and leveraging their behaviors and habits,” according to RFP documents reviewed by the Wall Street Journal.  It also wants the new partnership to help it improve “the brand perceptions of McDonald’s as a good corporate citizen,” according to the RFP.


McDonald’s is trying to tap into the fact that researchers believe that millennials are very interested in philanthropy and are more likely to be drawn to brands that have a history of giving back, some of the people said

It seems to boil down to: Help us convince people we’re a well-intentioned company so they don’t think our food is scummy. But unless McDonald’s can find an ad agency that’s able to go back in time and unpublish things like Fast Food Nation, it’s got a long way to go.

But hey, that’s not the only plan of attack against slowing sales and ascendant brands like Chipotle. McDonald’s is also just trying to hook ‘em young — by targeting schools. Here’s how CBS News puts it:

[T]he company will “start with mom and we will be helping her to feel great about McDonald’s — whether it’s McTeacher’s Nights, sponsoring kids sports, being a visible partner in local initiatives.”

If you’re wondering what, exactly, McTeacher’s Nights are, you’re probably not alone. This description is from the same CBS report: “The program asks teachers to work at a McDonald’s, with the fast-food restaurant giving 20 percent of the profits from that event for teachers who pitch in.” Needless to say, teachers don’t love being demeaned by corporate America, and one report says the events only ever raise $1 per student.

If the chain really wants more people to feel good about eating there — as opposed to it being a place you go when you’re either drunk or just really need to use a bathroom and they force you to buy something, so fine, you get some fries or McNuggets or whatever — it should do more to convince people it’s actually improving its food, something its competitors seem to have figured out.


Earlier: McDonald’s Figures Out That People Sort of Hate Going to McDonald’s

Burger Chain Officially Runs Out of Ideas