McDonald’s has in recent years been cultivating a far more lean and agile reputation than its heritage would imply. And this week’s McStrike to demand a £10 per hour minimum wage has demonstrated a steely confidence in the face of attacks on its brand.
Once the focus of films like 2004’s Supersize Me and Fast Food Nation, and the subject of the McLibel trial, McDonald’s stood for cheap, unhealthy food which hurt our waistlines, badly paid McJobs and environmental mismanagement.
Reputational problems derived from business models can take time to resolve, and changing supply-chain transparency and product mix has become increasingly important to many industries – in electronics, software, toys, aerospace — where provenance and sustainability is increasingly a critical concern. Faced with these challenges, McDonald’s has taken on its critics and made substantial changes to both its practices and its communications.
A more diversified menu with a more balanced offering that includes fruit, sugar-free fruit drinks for children and more chicken products, brand positioning equating the offer with farms and freshness, a complete overhaul of its stores with an identity that reflects a contemporary outlook has paid dividends: 11 consecutive quarters of positive comparable sales and enough goodwill to rebuff successfully this week’s McStrike.
The corporation’s detailed statement clearly demonstrated its work and pay practices as being better than many in the sector. It countered that the size and scope of the protest was miniscule in relation to the 120,000 workers in the UK. It answered the McStrike message on Twitter with posts showing its support of mothers returning to work and real-life stories of store workers. All of this rang true because of the goodwill it has banked. Ten years ago, the issue would have caused a major row with multiple stakeholders up in arms. Today it sank with barely a trace and the world moved on.
Slave to the CEO
Adidas CEO Kasper Rorsted this week appeared on Bloomberg TV in what should have been a positive, run of the mill earnings interview. Instead Bloomberg led with 4 questions at the top of the slot on the overnight news that Kanye West– affiliated to Adidas through his Yeezy brand – had made derogatory remarks about slavery in a bizarre TMZ interview. As Bloomberg put it ‘the conversation’– by which they meant social media – was all about Kanye. It was a chance for Bloomberg, the only media organisation which is an official Twitter partner, to put out the clip on social.
Adidas may not agree to another Bloomberg interview in the near future. Nevertheless it was somewhat surprising that a brand like Adidas wasn’t able to demonstrate it had a view of what was exercising the consumers of its products. And it was a perfect demonstration of how even at that bastion of business news, Bloomberg, the agenda is no longer limited to EPS and sales figures, but much more about the issues that affect organisations in their widest sense.