I’d like to lighten the load for the marketing team at McDonalds. They’v been dealing with a bit of a TwitterStorm relating to their #McDStories outreach concept. The background to the story is nicely laid out in today’s Financial Times.
The FT reports that McDonalds bought two promoted tweets from Twitter encouraging users to contribute their (positive) stories about the brand. Then all hell broke loose. Folk started using the same hashtag to discuss their McDonalds horror stories. Not good. Especially when you’re aiming for some positive reinforcement.
Is all press good press though? Quite possibly.
Reading the news stories about the ‘storm’ I was prompted to think of my own reaction to McDonalds.
I’m not ashamed to say it’s a wholeheartedly positive reaction.
Not only does the company employ legions of people worldwide and from what I can determine, if you work hard, you can earn well and be promoted. The UK MD of McDonalds has regularly been in the press talking about aspects such as the economy and I found him smart and articulate.
So here, then, is my McDStory:
My base relationship with McDonalds is consistency. I like consistency. I don’t like exceptions. That’s not to say I’m uncomfortable with change — I very much thrive on it — but, when it comes to food, especially in foreign climes, I like having my expectations either met or exceeded.
True, it’s perhaps rare to be blown away by a Big Mac meal.
But sometimes, McDonalds is what you need. Especially when you’re in the arse end of France or the Czech Republic, shivering, hungry and panicking about trying to speak the local language. Many times I’ve walked into a McDonalds somewhere on the planet and instantly relaxed, safe in the knowledge that “I know how this works” and that, all-things-being-equal, the food should be ok. You can’t really screw up french fries. Especially since almost every McDonalds planet-wide uses the same equipment.
You don’t need to speak the lingo. You just need to be able to gesture politely to whatever burger or meal is being advertised on the signs above the counter. Then, if you really don’t speak the language, you need to say words like “grandeyyy menoooo” and the other magic phrase, “Coca Cola”, and you’re done. The chap or lady serving you will parse that into a numerical total. Hand over the cash and receive.
I take huge, huge satisfaction and confidence from these kinds of experiences. Let me tell you why.
Years ago, YEARS ago, I went on a school trip to Israel. My school had decided to try and expand their trip horizons beyond the usual France or Germany and put on a trip of the ancient holy lands. I was into Roman history (still am) so opted to go along. Plus my mother co-opted my dad into coming along as well (parents were encouraged).
I think I was about 17.
This, by the way, was when Israel and Palestine were exceedingly calm. You could easily cross between the two countries. Relations between the two countries were so easy at this point, our trip was based out of a hotel in Bethlehem.
At this point I had a limited range of dietary options. I liked burgers, chips, pizza, crisps, ham sandwiches. I avoided everything else because I could and my teenage body was burning calories like no tomorrow.
So if you asked me to try new things — such as local ‘delicacies’ the answer was always a flat, direct NO.
Everyone else on the school trip was getting stuck into all sorts of local food. Me? I preferred to pop across the road from the hotel to the little shop and buy kitkats and twixes. And Coca Cola. Anything, basically, that was made by a recognised global brand whereby I could guarantee some level of quality control.
After a few days of kitkats I decided I needed some real food. I knew there was a McDonalds in Jerusalem. I’d looked it up before I left the UK. So I took a cab to Jerusalem. It’s only 8km or 18 minutes away. I had think I ate 2x Big Mac meals and I got a cheeseburger ‘for the road’. Needless to say: Delicious in the context of a kitkat diet.
My dad? He decided to try the local delicacies. This unfortunately put him out of action for 3-4 days almost immediately due to a rather serious case of gastro-enteritis. Whilst I was taking care of him and plying him with water, I was also popping out every afternoon to McDs in Jerusalem for sustenance.
So there’s one way in which McDonalds helped me.
Over the years I’ve made serious use of McDonalds regularly in a business context. In the UK they were one of the first chains to ‘get’ the concept of WiFi. Here’s a story I wrote over 3 years ago about the company introducing Free WiFi into their Oxford Street restaurant. Back in 2007, whilst on business in Hartlepool I had a serious issue with their rubbish BT Openzone connection (that’s when McDonalds WiFi was a premium service).
It’s difficult not to underestimate the huge value I place in knowing that if-all-else-fails, wherever I am, the local McDonalds will have decent quality WiFi. Countless times I’ve been on location somewhere in the UK (or in the States, actually) and found myself suddenly needing good quality WiFi — and my first stop has always been McDonalds.
I always buy something too. I think it’s only fair.
And now let’s get to the food issue. I don’t think that eating a McDonalds burger every day is very healthy. Neither, I’m sure, is eating a Byron Burger every day. Or a Dominos pizza. But nowadays there’s no excuse with McDonalds. They have salads. They have healthier options. They’ve fruit. They’ve orange juice and water. They’ve got all sorts of rolls and sandwiches. And they’re pretty direct with their calorie counter labels next to every product just in case you’re trying to ignore them.
Their McFlurries rock too.
For me, though, the value with McDonalds is always being able to get a connection. In today’s rather annoying ‘data crunch’ world, you really can’t rely on your operators to be able to deliver consistent high-speed internet in many metropolitan areas at peak time.
And when I’m abroad (not speaking the language), out of town and not wanting to be adventurous or seriously stressed with work having not eaten anything for what seems like days, a quick stop at McDonalds fixes things.