Tuesday, September 29, 2009

The softer side of McD's marketing

McDonald’s makes so much noise with its mega-sized marketing budget that it’s sometimes difficult to detect its soft-sell promotional efforts. That’s a shame, since those programs are not only among the brand’s most creative, but a benefit to plenty of other players as well.

Consider, for instance, what the chain is reportedly doing at 400 units in North Carolina and Tennessee. Local teachers will be working as crew members in the stores tonight, drawing soft drinks, cleaning tables, filling drive-thru orders and the like. In exchange, the restaurants will contribute a portion of sales from the three-hour stint to short-funded programs in the teachers’ schools.

Imagine the draw for a student of knowing his or her teacher will be waiting on them if they can talk the folks into a McDonald’s run. It sounds like a very powerful traffic booster.

But the benefits extend beyond the top and bottom lines. Educators readily acknowledge that the restaurant industry has a major image problem among teachers, parents and guidance counselors. By getting teachers to experience what it’s like to work in a restaurant, to see firsthand such intangible benefits as working as a team and learning responsibility, McDonald's will no doubt give the industry’s image a vigorous buff. And it won’t exactly hurt the business’s recruitment efforts to have kids see their teachers working in a unit.

That’s only one of the things the chain is quietly doing to foster a bond with the community. Consider, for instance, the recent effort of a single unit in West Miami. The store opened up its doors last week to anyone who wanted to learn about the operation. The franchisee focused on the charitable efforts of the restaurant and the chain, while also noting the options that McDonald’s touts as being more healthful.

According to a news report, the invitation drew about 50 people, including an 8th grade journalism class.

Then there’s McDonald’s green stealth move. Since the start of football season, the chain has been offering pro-football fans a free ticket on public transportation to and from their teams’ stadiums. In exchange for foregoing their cars, the game-goers also get coupons for free sandwiches.

The environmentally minded offer has gotten plenty of publicity, but I’ve yet to see any ads. It’s a quiet program, beyond the reproach of the advocates who are quick to tar any green effort by the chain as greenwashing.

It’s just a shame the chain doesn’t get its due for what it’s doing right.

1 comment:

Mark said...

Almost borders on shear genious at times yes?