Transparency is working for McDonald’s

Mark Cameron

Mark Cameron
Mark Cameron is CEO of customer experience innovation agency Working Three and a world renowned digital strategy commentator with well over 400 published articles. Specialties: Digital innovation, Digital customer experience strategy, Social media strategy, Digital strategy, Online Marketing strategy. He blogs at markrcameron.com and tweets from @MarkRCameron.

When you hear the words open, honest and transparent, McDonald’s is not the brand that would immediately spring to mind for many people. In fact it may not even make it into the top 100 for some of us. But McDonald’s in Canada is currently running a very interesting social media PR campaign which is set to change that public perception. And so far they are doing a great job.

The story starts at McDonald’s Canada’s YouTube channel (http://yourquestions.mcdonalds.ca) where the landing page has been customised. The first thing you see is a form asking the viewer to submit any questions they have about McDonald’s.

There are a lot of questions being asked. Many, like “Why is it so salty? Love your fries but they taste better with less salt”, are being answered with simple text responses such as “We’ve got great news for you! Simply tell our crew to hold the salt, and they’ll gladly make a fresh, unsalted batch of fries for you.” But there are a a number of stand out questions that are being dealt with differently.

The question that has made this campaign really take off seems reasonably simple. It asks “Why does your food look different in the advertising than what is in the store?”. Rather than simply answer that question with a few lines of text, the PR team created a video with McDonald’s director of marketing as the story teller. It shows exactly what happens on the set of a McDonald’s burger photo shoot. It’s a ‘behind-the-scenes’ story that most people never get to see. And it has clearly captured the imagination of the public. At the time of writing this over 6.7 million people had viewed the video – a number equivalent to 20% of Canada’s population.

There are many of these ‘real people answering real questions’ videos. There is even a step by step video from McDonald’s head chef telling you exactly how to make a Big Mac at home.

There is still room for the campaign to improve. Personally I’d be interested to see them make an attempt to capture more viewer data, although I expect they will be getting a lot from YouTube itself. The actual site could be a little easier to navigate too. But these are minor issues when looking at the campaign as a whole.

It doesn’t take long to realise that this site is merging customer service, PR and branding into one engaging, brilliant campaign. It taps directly into the culture of openness and honesty that social media creates and offers a platform for a continual dialogue with McDonald’s customers. Where many brands are still assessing social media’s risks, McDonald’s Canada has forged ahead and said, ‘We have to communicate with our customers in every way we can’.

The McDonald’s campaign demonstrates that transparency driven by social media is going mainstream. One of the world’s biggest brands has realised that every customer’s voice is important. How long will take for other brands to follow?