Dear McDonald’s: No One Wants To See How The Sausage Is Made

I’ve written up brilliant strategic plays by McDonald’s in the past. But I’ve also shared that they’re completely and totally misguided in their recent tactic of showing “how the sausage is made” and how their “food” is created in a laboratory / factory.

The previous example was the gag-worthy chicken goop. The latest was one I stumbled upon was just released today. They’re apparently paying (ex) Mythbuster Grant Imahara as their new celebrity corporate shill, who goes inside of a McDonald’s beef supplier to show you how their hamburger patties are made. Here’s the video:

Here’s the thing: as with the chicken nugget video linked above, all this does is show just how divorced from real food their product is. It’s almost as if the entire McDonald’s corporation does not realize the reason for the ongoing documentaries and backlash over their product is due to exactly what their corporation thinks is a good thing (a pristine production plant sprayed down with chemicals nightly). Also note, we don’t get any insight into how the animals were raised, amount of hormones given to the cows for faster growth and antibiotics given to prevent disease etc. All this does is raise more questions.

It’s also gross. Just like with their chicken, which they released a video that looks like this:

Who advised them it’s a good idea to show random meat parts in a conveyer belt that looks like this:

beef

Or that it’s a good idea show a lab technician in a room that looks like a doctor’s office …WHY would you want your food associated with this!?

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My favorite part is below the video itself on YouTube, McDonald’s calls out some obvious myths (which I had never even thought about). Why you would want your brand associated with things like “worm meat” is beyond me, which is what is happening by them calling it out. They shouldn’t even acknowledge this:

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I was curious to see about the hormones question, so I clicked it only to discover that yes, in fact there are hormones in the beef. But why would they call that out here? It’s almost as if they assume by posing the question buried in the description, you might assume they don’t contain hormones. When you click, you see very clearly they do. And they’re not even shy about it …actually brushing it off as if “oh, everyone does it so it’s fine:”

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Is this all in response to McDonald’s continued dismal sales and stock decline? Who knows, but it does appear with this ongoing tactic they are trying to go upstream in the market and target the increasingly large chunk that Chipotle, 5 Guys, In-N-Out, etc are taking out of the QSR (Quick Service Restaurant) market. The problem is that McDonald’s is not and cannot be seen as  a “premium” QSR brand due not only to perception but that their marketing does not align with the people who are seeking out quality in their QSR. Also their core users who actually do eat McDonald’s every day certainly do not care to see this. The above videos are in stark contrast to how Chipotle talks to customers. In case you’re one of the few people who hasn’t seen it, check out how Chipotle talks to the market with videos such as this:

Chipotle actively understand the current consumer narrative for food quality, nutrition and freshness (this is why Chiptole’s stock is up +44% in the last year and McDonald’s is down -4.2%). So while McDonald’s is consciously marketing themselves as a sterile, industrial, over-processed cheap food machine (they even say they’re cheap in one of their videos!) where people in lab coats try to persuade you their food is quality, up and coming brands invest in organic / hormone-free ingredients and market as if they’re a premium brand.

As I’ve said before: where are the chefs? The farmers? Oh wait. It would be a terrible idea for them to show either. So instead, they show people dressed in lab coats parading around a factory floor demonstrating how the sausage is made. It’s all just so awful. McDonald’s is clearly on the defensive here and for good reason: declining sales, poor performing stock and overall trend in consumer preference towards healthy (and natural) food. But this approach to marketing will cause far more harm than anything else and will (IMO) end up in business textbooks for what not to do.