While McDonald's may never shed its fast-food image, the company is trying to change consumer perceptions about its business.
Starting today, the world's largest fast-food giant is launching a social media campaign called "Our Food. Your Questions," created to address some of the most nagging questions people have regarding its food.
"The work we've done in the past has been one-way," Kevin Newell, EVP-chief brand and strategy officer for McDonald's USA, told BurgerBusiness.com. "We've made nutrition information about our food available for a number of years. But people had to go find it. Now we're inviting consumers to go on a journey with us to get those questions answered."
Have a question about our food? The floor is yours. http://t.co/T9W0r3CQVK— McDonald's (@McDonalds) October 13, 2014
In addition to hiring former "Mythbuster" co-host Grant Imahara to star in some webisodes about the most persistent myths, McDonald's is launching a "command center" to answer any questions sent over social media in real time. So far, the curtain has been pulled back on issues such as pink slime in burgers(the answer:not recently!) to the secret of the McGriddles bun (featuring a "maple taste baked in.")
So what's really going on here? Well, McDonald's has an image problem. The food might taste good, but few people worried about nutrition would point to the golden arches as a health-conscious option. That may not be news to the more than 68 million worldwide who frequent the restaurants, but it's a serious consideration for millennials — an influential and rising demographic that is increasingly turning to healthier fast-food chains like Chipotle or Five Guys Burgers and Fries.
With its latest campaign, McDonald's is trying to reconnect with consumers, allaying fears that its food is no worse than any of its competitors. As Naomi Starkman points out on the site CivilEats.com, bridging that gap is going to take more than good PR.
"If the company really wants to connect with consumers, it should take a hard look at the practices behind the ingredients it uses and begin to change them incrementally," she writes. "It could take a real stand for sustainability — including changing to suppliers and producers who raise meat without antibiotics."
In reviewing the litany of Q&As addressed within five categories (ingredients, menu, food science, sourcing and sustainability, and nutrition) on its website, I came to another conclusion about this campaign that could backfire for the fast-food chain. Namely, getting to know the chain and its practices better may only reinforce people's suspicions about its role in the further degradation of people, animals and the planet. Reading over honest answers about azodicarbonamide (ADA) in burger buns and anti-foaming agents in chicken nuggets makes the thought of fast food even more unappetizing.
By pulling back the curtain, McDonald's could inadvertently be pulling itself off the stage.
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- Top 10 organic fast-food restaurants