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Examine how and why McDonald’s recently decided to rebrand itself in the UK

Introduction

This paper will critically examine the key factors behind the recent McDonald’s rebranding campaign in the UK.The main objectives of this research will be to explore why and how did McDonald’s rebrand itself in the UK.This research will also provide an in-depth analysis of the benefits of McDonald’s business model, as well as the significant problems that have been faced, and have generated criticism towards McDonald’s, its product, and its quality of service.

McDonald’s Rebranding

The fast food restaurant, McDonald’s, has been a significant influence and figure in American culture for decades, and continues to prosper in the USA and around the world.

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For Ritzer (2011), the McDonald’s brand has become a symbol of the Westernization process, which is driven by the general globalization. Through the company’s success, McDonald’s has developed a profitable business model that has widely adopted by a number of other successful companies around the world, such as IKEA, Pizza Hut, and Burger King (Ritzer, 2011). “McDonaldization” has become the term to identify organizational systems which look to control their consumers through the McDonald’s business model (Ritzer, 2011). McDonald’s business model has been so successfully in recent times that the company has consistently been ranked as one of the top “Best Global Brands”; and it can certainly be felt that almost every person around the world has heard of McDonald’s (Ritzer, 2011). However, the company has recently received quite a large degree of negative criticism with regards to their employment conditions, the quality of their products and the negative effects of these products on people’s health (Ritzer, 2011). Consequently, this has led McDonald’s senior management to consider a rebrand to sustain their competitive advantage in the modern market.

In terms of the poor employment conditions, the “McJob” scheme has lost its appeal to prospective employees because of the low salary and lack of further career opportunities or long-term development for McDonald’s staff (Klein, 1999). In fact, the majority of McDonald’s employees consider their job to be a hobby, although this has now changed in light of the recent economic downturn (Klein, 1999). This attitude suggests that the candidates who apply for employment with McDonald’s consider service industry roles as “temporary work”, and expect to change their roles in the near future. From the employer’s perspective, the ability to offer a low wage has always been seen as an effective way to cut down on operational costs (Klein, 1999). Recently however, McDonald’s has started to push an additional 50 000 new jobs as part of their new rebranding campaign (Talent Management, 2011). The company is trying to disrupt this association between McJob and poorly paid, dead-end work by connecting both the HR and the Marketing sectors. The main message they are promoting suggests that more than 50% of franchise owners and 75% of restaurant managers started their career as waiters (Talent Management, 2011). Furthermore, the company has recently implemented a general budget planner for their employees which is based on the average salary of a McDonald’s waiter (Bloomberg, 2013). These figures suggest that this level of salary is enough to cover living costs (Bloomberg, 2013). However, this has also stirred much debate across social networks. Elsewhere, McDonald’s has targeted younger people, including students or young adults, as potential employees (Talent Management, 2011), Unfortunately this salary has been shown not to cover their basic living expenses, and nor does the role correspond to the “dream job” they were expecting (Klein, 1999).

With regards to McDonald’s products and service quality, the company has built its success on a tasty product delivered at fast speed. This is significant as efficiency is one of the key dimensions underlying the brand (Ritzer, 2011). Even though the products are considered tasty and are widely enjoyed, the nutritional value and the general effect on the consumer’s health are questionable (Schlosser, 2004). The reputation of the “healthiness” of McDonald’s products has been widely examined, with documentaries such as “Super-Size Me” exposing the health risks of consuming McDonald’s products over time (Boniwell and Lucy, 2012). It was shown that are significant risks to major bodily organs that came as a result of this experiment (Boniwell and Lucy, 2012). This attitude aligns itself with the increasing interest in the growing level of obesity among adults and children around the world. Given the fact that one of the main reasons behind the obesity is excessive fast food intake, this negatively affects the brand image of McDonald’s (Boniwell and Lucy, 2012). As a result, the company has decided to integrate healthier fast food options within their menus.

Jamie Oliver, one of the most popular TV chefs in the UK, has also criticized McDonald’s food. He condemned the company for the poor nutritional content in their products and the overall low quality of McDonald’s food (Marketing, 2012). However, once the company integrated health-related associations into it rebrand, Jamie Oliver actually praised the company (Marketing, 2012). Oliver started supporting McDonald’s after the company started using organic milk and free-range eggs in their menu (Marketing, 2012). Therefore it can be seen that criticism from key institutions and famous celebrities has driven McDonald’s to promote healthy food as part of the company rebrand. This can be seen as

McDonald’s has started to provide nutritional information for its products in the restaurant menus. The products have also been redesigned with a view of decreasing the number of calories in them; for example, it is estimated that the calorie content in some McDonald’s meals has decreased by as much as 20%. Despite this, there remain products which are high in calories, such as the popular Big Mac, which still has 490 calories a serving (Daily Mail, 2011).

A significant part of this rebrand aims to distance McDonald’s from the image of a “fast food cafe”, which considers speed as their priority. This implies that the company is trying to change its brand image to be seen as an “upscale restaurant”, thereby delivering better quality service and products (Humans Invent, 2012). This can be seen in the redecoration of the restaurants’ interior to be more “restaurant-like” in their design. These actions suggest that the company is attempting to distance itself from the primary factors that, in the beginning, actually have contributed to the widespread development of McDonald’s brand image: efficiency, calculability and speed. However, some sources argue that it would be quite difficult for the company to change the target market from being consumer’s expecting quick service and standard McDonald’s food meal to ones expecting a nice and pleasurable experience (Humans Invent, 2012).

Elsewhere, McDonald’s rebrand aims to target families with children that visit the restaurants for lunch or for dinner. This implies that McDonald’s typical customers, namely teenagers and children, has contributed to decrease the value of the brand image (Humans Invent, 2012). Consequently, the majority of McDonald’s restaurants in the UK have been redesigned to look like a contemporary family restaurant (Humans Invent, 2012). This implies that the whole seating arrangement and interior design has been changed to suit the family needs. Despite this, the food quality is still not considered to be for everyone; therefore it is questionable whether the redesign and changes in the menus will attract the correct consumer.

A similar rebranding campaign was integrated by the superstore Wal-Mart, where the management tried to integrate celebrity endorsement to change brand image (Frying Pan News, 2011). However, given Wal-Mart’s brand reputation and history, this campaign was widely considered to be a failure. Therefore, the question still remains whether the current rebranding strategy will work for McDonald’s as the company is trying to completely change a brand strategy that has been hugely successful for 50 years (Elliott, 2011). McDonald’s had already tried to integrate new products in the past, such as offering Deluxe Line Burgers, but these strategies have failed (Elliott, 2011). This suggests that McDonald’s targeted children as well as families, anticipating that parents would come to McDonald’s to please their children. Therefore the needs of a target market did not correspond with the positioning of a new “Deluxe” product which led to the failure of the line (Elliott, 2011). Currently, McDonald’s is attempting to change the product, promotion, positioning, and physical evidence of its brand in line with the new target market. However, despite all of these changes, there is still a chance that this will not be successful.

Conclusion

The aim of this essay was to explore the key reasons behind the new McDonald’s rebranding strategy. It can be seen that the company has decided to move away from the old rebranding strategy which has been successful for the last 50 years. McDonald’s has started to integrate changes into every aspect of its marketing mix. This rebranding has altered the nature of McJob, the health value of the product and the quality of the service. The new rebrand strategy has also introduced new targeting and positioning strategies, as well as affecting the promotion, physical product and people aspects of the McDonald’s brand. Despite the efforts of the new rebranding strategy, the levels of success remain questionable and it could be considered that rebranding may actually decrease the value of McDonald’s brand in the context of its association with American and pop culture. Likewise, it may fail to attract the new target market which could result in additional costs for the company.

References:

Bloomberg (2013) McDonald’s Employee Budget Planner Assumes 2 Jobs at $13 an Hour. Available: http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2013-07-15/mcdonald-s-employee-budget-planner-assumes-2-jobs-at-13-an-hour.html (Accessed on 14/11/2013).

Boniwell, I., Lucy, R. (2012) Personal Well-Being Lessons For Secondary Schools: Positive Psychology In Action for 11 to 14 years old, McGraw-Hill: UK.

Daily Mail (2011) It’s a (salty, fatty, saucy) McWrap! 600-calorie breakfast is worse than Big Mac, Available: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2054942/McDonald’s-McWrap-600-calorie-breakfast-worse-Big-Mac.html (Accessed on 14/11/2013).

Elliott, C. (2011) “It’s junk food and chicken nuggets: Children’s perspectives on

‘kids’ food’ and the question of food classification”, in Journal of Consumer Behaviour, 10 (13): 133-40.

Frying Pan News (2013) Walmart Celebrities: Which Side Are You OnAvailable: http://fryingpannews.org/2013/07/30/walmart-celebrities-which-side-are-you-on/ (Accessed on 14/11/2013).

Humans Invent (2012) McDonald’s gets a face-lift. Available: http://www.humansinvent.com/#!/4429/McDonald’s-gets-a-face-lift/ (Accessed on 14/11/2013).

Klein, N. (1999) No Logo: Taking Aim at the Brand Bullies, Knopf Canada: Canada.

Marketing (2012) Jamie Oliver praises McDonald’s healthy eating agenda. Available: http://www.marketingmagazine.co.uk/article/1142906/jamie-oliver-praises-McDonald’s-healthy-eating-agenda (Accessed on 14/11/2013).

Ritzer, G. (2011) The McDonaldization of Society 6, Pine Forge Press: USA.

Schlosser, E. (2004) Fast Food Nation: The Dark Side of the All-American Meal, Allen Lane The Penguin Press: UK.

Talent Management (2011) McDonald’s Aims to Rebrand the ‘McJob’. Available: http://talentmgt.com/articles/view/McDonald’s-aims-to-rebrand-the-mcjob/1 (Accessed on 14/11/2013).

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