Images courtesy of Salon.com and Wiki.alumni.net
Recently, McDonald’s announced its new global brand chief, Steve Easterbrook, who will be responsible for marketing the brand throughout its location all over the world. Maintaining a brand as huge and global as McDonald’s is a tremendous responsibility, but I wonder what marketing aspects he will maintain, and what changes he will effect globally.
During dinner last night with my brother, who works at McDonald’s, I asked about his job responsibilities, his work hours, and how he finds his part-time job so far. Our conversation got me thinking about fast food chains outside the U.S.– how McDonald’s, Wendy’s, Burger King, and even KFC are actually seen as good places to grab a bite. Of course, everyone knows they’re not 5-star restaurants, they still serve fast food after all, but eating at KFC or Wendy’s is not a mere grab-and-go routine. It is a sit-down, fork and knife (and spoon!) affair. Perhaps because what we order from these restaurants go beyond just burgers, unlike the typical American who probably just order burgers.
Variety of menu items
This is a snapshot of a McDonald’s menu in the Philippines. As you can see, burgers are placed at the bottom of the menu, and the first food type a consumer will see during lunch time (past the breakfast menu) is a combo meal of chicken and spaghetti. Though this is just a sample of one menu and may not be representative of all McDonald’s locations in the Philippines, it is not surprising that McDonald’s market the chicken/rice/spaghetti combo more heavily than it does burgers since burgers are not common lunch items in the Filipino culture, where many people eat rice 3+ times a day.
In India, the McDonald’s menu consists of vegetarian options, as well as traditional Indian dishes such as curry entrees and paneer wraps.
Since McDonald’s serve meals and food preferences vary greatly not just from region to region but even from country to country, Starbucks isn’t faced with the same problems since a coffee is a coffee is a coffee no matter where you are in the world.
As you can see, the Starbucks menu in the Philippines looks strikingly similar to the one we’re used to in the U.S.. Although they may place emphasis on certain items through the “featured” section, the menu doesn’t vary much.
McDonald’s marketing strategy
What is interesting about the current McDonald’s marketing strategy is that the company markets the brand as an American company toward non-U.S. consumers– capitalizing on the world’s fascination with American products. Yet in the U.S., it markets itself as a global brand– targeting the foreign population in the U.S. who have had experienced McDonald’s in their respective countries.
So, what should McDonald’s new global brand chief consider as he plans his brand vision and the marketing operations for the company? First, maintaining the current strategy of marketing itself as something familiar to foreign populations who are in the U.S. is a good approach. Foreigners know McDonald’s is an American brand, but not just another American brand– a brand they have encountered before, that ironically, might even remind them more of their own country and their memories of McDonald’s there, than say, a restaurant that serves Americanized versions of traditional meals and flavors in their home countries. A Japanese immigrant may feel more at home with a Big Mac, than say, a Philly roll that marries sushi rice with cream cheese. An Indian tourist may feel more compelled to order a McDonald’s sundae cone than a chocolate bar infused with curry and chili.
Second, continuing to be a local brand in populations abroad. As a child, I grew up feeling as connected to McDonald’s Philippines as I was with its biggest local competitor, Jollibee. I joined educational and artistic programs sponsored by these two chains, and I saw both chains as equally local– that choosing to go to McDonald’s or Jollibee to eat was a matter of proximity, not preference. (this is probably an area where McDonald’s should improve further, to nurture in the consumer a preference for the brand). McDonald’s strategy to insert itself in a foreign culture abroad by hosting programs and contests for the local population seemed effective to reinforce that emotional connection. This is probably greatly due to establishing alliances with foreign franchisees and local operators.
Third, further strengthening itself as a globally conscious brand toward Americans at home through the “I love it” motto. Americans are aware this the world is increasingly becoming globalized, and the “I love it” message attracts those who are inclined to travel the world– through the packaging, learning various ways to say “I love it” in different languages help local Americans think about a global world, one in which McDonald’s is a leading player, not dissimilar from the U.S.’s position in the world.