This post is a part of our People’s Insights monthly brief for October, called “On Responding.”
Fielding doubts about McDonald’s food
People have been concerned about the quality of McDonald’s food for years, in part due to the documentary Super Size Me (2004), individual experiments like the Happy Meal Project to test if the food will rot, and more recently the Jaimie Oliver campaign to make McDonald’s stop using pink slime in the United States (2012).
McDonald’s Canada was the first to launch Our Food. Your Questions. to prove their claim that they used 100% pure beef and had never used pink slime. In 2012, they launched an online platform inviting people to send in their questions. McDonald’s Canada received 16,000 questions in its first four months and posted 10,000 answers in real-time. A question about the appearance of the food in ads even led to the creation of the video Behind the Scenes at a McDonald’s photo shoot which has received 10 million views to date!
Following the success of the Canadian campaign in changing perspectives, Our Food. Your Questions. was re-created in Australia in 2013 with a similar platform showing questions and answers, and video responses.
In October 2014, McDonald’s introduced the campaign in the United States.
Our Food. Your Questions. comes to the United States
For the U.S. edition, McDonald’s partnered with former host of TV show Mythbusters Grant Imahara to create a series of webisodes. People were invited to share their questions on social media, and Imahara would visit McDonald’s suppliers to find the answers. In one of the webisodes, the person asking the question was invited to join Imahara at the factory and featured in the video What are McRibs made of?
McDonald’s suppliers too are featured in the video, walking Imahara through the production process, answering questions and then tasting the food with him.
Reactions: Not yet enough
There seems to be strong interest in the U.S. campaign, with two of the longer webisodes about beef and McRibs receiving over 1.5 million views each. But the number of dislikes match the number of likes and the comments show that people aren’t yet convinced.
As Adweek’s Rebecca Cullers notes:
“What I most admire is that they’re letting the comment feed on YouTube be just as brutal as it wants to be. And man, is it brutal.”
The comments are filled with cynical comments, with people still choosing to believe the ‘myths’ rather than a mythbuster hired by McDonald’s. It doesn’t help that the media is using the campaign to highlight bigger problems they want McDonald’s to focus on.
John Oliver made a parody of the initial McDonald’s ad to highlight the low wages McDonald’s employees get paid. Time contributor Naomi Starkman wondered about the lack of questions around more relevant, hard-hitting themes like antibiotic-use and cage-free eggs, arguing that McDonald’s competitors like Chipotle were winning market share because of better food practices.
If McDonald’s is serious about changing its perception (and bottom-line) in the U.S., it should start by analyzing the questions to identify what its customers care about most and analyzing feedback to guide the next phase of the campaign. And, McDonald’s should take a leaf out of the Canadian and Australian book, and do a better job of answering questions and displaying them up-front for all to see.