Friday, July 1, 2011

Ronald becomes McBanished !

Poor Ronald McDonald doesn't look like a picture of health these days. When a report recently surfaced that the 48 year old clown was being retired. Ronald haters everywhere felt vindicated. Last year, the watchdog group Corporate Accountability International called or Ronald's banishment and down-with-the-clown sentiment outside the U.S. is so extreme that one Finnish group beheaded the hapless mascot in effigy (no, this time they weren't Muslims).

Ronald's apparent dismissal seemed less like an attempt to placate progressives or people who fear clowns than a reaction to increasing pressure to stop marketing high-fat, processed food to children. San Francisco was the first to outlaw the Happy Meal with other cities contemplating more of the same. McDonald's issued a clarification that Ronald might still be called on now and then to speak for the brand but presently he has become less important to its overall marketing plan. Ronald will have to fend for himself in the real world now that he's homeless. (see photo)

If you were to gain access to McDonald's marketing department, you might find that it was not his connection to kids that put Ronald on the firing line; it was his disconnection from McDonald's increasingly lucrative base of adult consumers, the ones that have made the chain's McCafe line (a seemingly late entry into the speciality coffee market) wildly successful. McDonald's saw in Starbucks a mighty force that might be absorbed, Borg-like, into McDonald's galaxy, but Ronald is too corny and down-market to serve lattes, wraps and smoothies. While kids are still important, McDonald's has made it clear that it wants the rest of the family too and the adult customer doesn't have a lot of use for clowns or trippy live-action cartoons with purple shake monsters.

The Way I See is a move McDonald's has perfected time and again. It has followed every lead that's come along in the quick service business, from drive throughs to movie tie-ins and has done it all far more successfully than the original innovators.

Now the company is well on its way to beating Starbucks at its own game, with McCafes driving revenue growth in six of the past seven quarters to a record high of $24 billion in sales last year. With that kind of money at stake, there's no room for clowning around. Poor Ronald.

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