Bringing Shine Back to the Golden Arches
Back in 2002, senior leaders at McDonald’s asked branding expert Larry Light to become McDonald’s global chief marketing officer and help the company improve its brand image. They wanted to accomplish the lofty goal of shifting the fast-food chain’s growth strategy from opening new restaurants to increasing the number of visits customers made to its existing restaurants. With the help of Joan Kiddon, another branding expert from the consulting firm Arcature LLC, Light successfully helped McDonald’s rebuild the declining relevance of its brand and grow its base of loyal customers over the next few years.
In Six Rules for Brand Revitalization: Learn How Companies Like McDonald’s Can Re-Energize Their Brands, Light and Kiddon tell the story of how they addressed the long list of issues that McDonald’s faced while trying to refocus its brand and renew its growth strategy. Problems at the company included inconsistent advertising, an overemphasis on deal promotion, inadequate training, reduced employee pride and decreased franchisee confidence. The experts’ goal was to make McDonald’s a better company, not just a bigger company.
The Three C’s
For McDonald’s, Light and Kiddon broke down the mission of revitalizing the brand into three C’s — “clarity of direction, consistent implementation and commitment from the top down throughout the organization.” To help McDonald’s reach its goals, the authors developed six simple rules that any company can follow to revitalize its brand.
Light and Kiddon’s first rule for brand revitalization is “Refocus the Organization.” For McDonald’s, that focus became a shift of the company’s focus from a selling mindset to a customer mindset. In other words, they needed to put the customer back in the driver’s seat.
The authors’ second rule for brand revitalization is “Restore Brand Relevance.” They learned from their experiences with McDonald’s that this means developing a better understanding of the market, segmenting the market according to people’s needs, building insight into the customer and defining the company’s “brand promise.”
Reinvent the Brand Experience
In the third rule, the authors describe reinventing the brand experience. At McDonald’s, this meant improving the taste of its burgers, including a return to the practice of toasting its buns, a detail that had been dropped to save money and time. It also meant improving the quality of its coffee. Since customers wanted new choices, a better brand meant extending the menu to include a greater variety of offerings, such as yogurt parfaits and new salads.
According to the authors, revitalizing a brand also includes reinforcing a results culture, the fourth rule.When they took on the task of revitalizing McDonald’s brand, they set about implementing better recognition and rewards, identifying measurable milestones and initiating the Balanced Brand-Business Scorecard, which they invented to measure store cleanliness, brand loyalty and other standards. These milestones were published where everyone could see them and take note of their progress.
The authors’ fifth rule for revitalizing a brand addresses rebuilding brand trust. They write that this is a prerequisite for creating long-term loyalty. At McDonald’s, the authors helped the company become more open, safe and trustworthy by instilling a broad array of practices that made customers feel a healthier sense of connection to the brand.
Realize Global Alignment
Finally, the authors’ sixth rule of brand revitalization is “Realize Global Alignment.” By looking back to the guidance of McDonald’s founder Ray Kroc, the company was able to help its employees around the world improve how they worked together to reach the goals of a better brand purpose and a better brand promise.
By describing the story of brand reinvention at McDonald’s in dramatic detail, the authors have created a valuable guide that any company can use to rethink and improve its brand. The impressive results seen by McDonald’s after implementing these rules speak volumes about their effectiveness.