No Good Deed…

English: McDonalds' sign in Harlem.

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Foodie Friday fun time, and this week it’s fast food. Oh, sorry – Quick Service Restaurants. No, this isn’t going to be a polemic on the horrors of what’s served in many of these places. Instead, I’d like to focus for a moment on what the category leader has announced and some of the responses to it.

I find it instructive and you might as well. You might be aware the McDonald’s is going to give away books as toys with their Happy Meals which are targeted to kids.  The books will replace the usual toy and I think giving away 20,000,000 books instead of a like number of toys is a good thing.  However, that’s where much of the positive energy stops.  As USA Today reported:

…this new series of four kids books is hardly comprised of Caldecott Medal winners. Rather, the four books are based on McDonald’s own animated animals, including a goat, ant, dodo bird and, yes, a dinosaur.

Now McDonald’s had given out books at least 15 times previously but this is the first time the books have been created by their ad agency.  The cynics would say that since the books try to tell the kids about healthy eating from characters associated with the McDonald’s brand, kids might think McDonald’s is healthy food.  NY Times food writer Mark Bittman asked this:

If McDonald’s wanted to be on the right side of history, it would announce something like this: ‘Starting tomorrow, we’re not offering soda with Happy Meals except by specific request. And starting Jan. 1, at every McDonald’s, we’ll be offering a small burger with a big salad for the price of a burger and fries to anyone who asks for it; we’re also adding a chopped salad McWrap. We challenge our competitors to follow us in making fast food as healthful as it is affordable, and we dare our critics to say we’re not changing.

What’s the business point?  We can’t say one thing and appear to do another.  Simple, right?  Maybe to say, but we have to examine the entirety of our activities – both marketing-based and otherwise – to make sure that our words and our actions are aligned.  There are many people who look at everything companies do with a cynical eye and they have the tools and platforms to make their feelings known.  Anything associated with making money is subject to that skeptical review and the above is a good demonstration of how our good intentions can be undercut.

Does that make sense?

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Filed under food, Reality checks

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