business storytellingContent Marketing

Burgers and content marketing: a valuable corporate case study

By August 27, 2014 No Comments

Today is National Burger Day, the brainchild of the email newsletter Mr Hyde. As well as giving me the chance to get a discount on my lunch, today’s celebration of all things beef and bap has got me thinking about one of the best content marketing case studies of recent years: McDonald’s Our Food Your Questions campaign.

In the corporate world, it takes a brave communications or marketing manager to stick their head over the parapet and suggest a new way of doing things, but sometimes solutions that can seem radical at first can have the most impact.

Think about some of the allegations directed at McDonald’s regarding their food production processes. Thanks to consumers generally being more knowledgeable about food production than ever, in recent years the battle for customers in the fast food industry has been around the perception of food quality. However, despite spending a fortune on paid advertising around the provenance of its food, a quick Google search will still give you a host of conspiracy theories about McDonald’s food ranging from accusations of ‘pink goop’ in McNuggets to McDonald’s owning a company called ‘100% Pure Beef’.

In 2012, McDonald’s Canada came up with a new strategy: Listen to consumers, then tell them the truth. It employed an agency to create a new, dedicated website called Our Food Your Questions. Then it invited anyone to ask them a question about McDonald’s food and set a dedicated team the task of answering them.

The ‘pink goop’ question, for example, was answered by the Supply Chain Manager for McDonald’s Canada via a video, where she visits the company’s meat supplier Cargill and shows the nugget production process from beginning to end. See for yourself below.

Says Jeffrey Fitzpatrick-Stilwell, Senior Manager, Sustainability and Government Relations for McDonald’s Cananda: “This transparent and authentic approach helped shift Canadian’s perceptions about the quality of McDonald’s food, as well as our practices and procedures, in a new and dynamic way.”

The website received nearly 260,000 unique visits in its first six weeks, while the video series – which also shows how potatoes are grown for McDonald’s Canada’s French fries, how to make a Big Mac at home and how the eggs are cooked for the McMuffin sandwiches – received more than 16 million views.

McDonald’s Australia and McDonald’s New Zealand launched a similar campaigns late last year. It is a groundbreaking approach that involves people across the entire business and that fully takes into account the digital information age we’re in.

At a recent content marketing conference in Antwerp, I heard keynote speaker and marketing guru Jay Baer say this about the McDonald’s campaign: “Transparency is a differentiator – everything comes out in the end. Customers are reporters now. What if we are honest from the beginning? Without trust all content fails. Smart companies run towards controversy.”

The McDonald’s example is not about selling more burgers per se – it’s about redressing the ongoing negativity that dogs the brand via an honest approach. Which in turn will doubtless mean ROI for the company, but the fact that increased revenue wasn’t the key objective of this campaign is a valuable lesson. Listening and responding to your audience, consumers or customers with valuable content can establish trust. And if people trust something they are more likely to buy into it.

Now, I’m off for a cheeseburger and fries.


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