Lessons Businesses Can Learn From McDonald’s Recipe of Brand Transparency

Molly Bruno

Written by Molly Bruno on Wed, Jun 12, 2013

http://chinabevnews.files.wordpress.com/2013/01/mcdonalds.jpgA recent unconventional Q&A session at the McDonald’s annual shareholder meeting showed that even some of the youngest consumers are concerned about brand transparency.

After 9-year-old Hannah Robinson addressed the CEO of McDonald’s Corp., Don Thompson, asking, "Mr. Thompson, don't you want kids to be healthy so they can live a long and happy life?" Thompson responded by talking about his children and their experiences eating McDonalds, according to an ABC news article. In this case, he chose to express appreciation for her interest in fruits and vegetables, adding that he also likes to cook a lot of vegetables at home.

What can businesses learn from McDonald’s approach?

Despite the mixed opinions about McDonald’s menu options, what is important from a transparency standpoint is that Thompson allowed some room for criticism. In turn, what this says about one of the most internationally recognized brands is that a receptive and honest conversation is key. People want to be heard. 

Taking disclosure to the next level

In the past, McDonald’s has been heavily criticized for how it markets its brand to consumers. Some notable points in the 2003 Pelman v. McDonald’s Corp. case include grievances about the “super size” option, unfair marketing to children and poorly explained nutrition facts that mislead consumers.

Since then, McDonald’s has taken note and acted. McDonald’s Canada has a completely candid online question and answer site (http://yourquestions.mcdonalds.ca) that sets a precedent for transparency in business. Here, customers are encouraged to ask any conceivable question about McDonald’s food. In return, they receive real answers from actual people. Some questions include: “How is it that a McDonald’s burger does not rot?” or “How does McDonald’s make nuggets?”


Another way McDonald’s has stayed on point with its consumers is by staying in tune with feedback from social media sites. McDonald’s Director of Social Media, Rick Wion, heads the team that listens to consumers through social media channels. McDonald’s continually evolves its marketing approaches based on consumer input learned though social media. 

The corporation’s take on transparency doesn’t stop there. Last year, McDonald’s Canada released a video showing customers exactly how they enhance food in product photos for advertisements. Tricks like strategically placing pickles on a burger, injecting condiments with a syringe and photo retouching were revealed. To date, the YouTube video has over 8 million hits. This type of authentic information is what customers crave.


The ultimate lesson McDonald’s brand offers is invaluable: Businesses have a much better chance to come out on top when they choose to communicate directly and openly with customers. What do you think?

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