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Strange Days

February 16, 2012

This is a story about McDonald’s, but it starts with Chipotle. It’s always a dangerous thing to talk about those two companies in the same sentence. Because many people still think that Chipotle is owned by McDonald’s. It’s not.

For a brief period of time when McDonald’s was doing well, and was sitting on a big pile of cash, they started to invest in other businesses. One of these was Chipotle. This burrito chain was growing. The fast casual segment in which it competed was growing. And McDonald’s wanted to have a piece of that pie.

But in that period McDonald’s took its eye off its core business, and sales began to decline. That pile of money started to shrink. And the company divested themselves of their ancillary holdings that included a portion (it never owned the entirety) of Chipotle.

I only mention Chipotle because this story begins with the ad the company ran during the Grammys. It’s hard to call it an ad. Really, it’s more like a two and a half minute music video, which has been freely available on YouTube for a long time. The fact that despite all of its downloads this video is still news speaks to the massive power broadcast television continues to have even in a day of fragmented media and online superstardom.

Anyway, if you’ve been living under a rock you may not have seen the spot.

Nobody said Chipotle wasn’t clever. And it’s wise that they led this effort with their pork, because Chipotle has a great pork story. Moe’s has a slightly better beef story for now. But that’s beside the point.
Amazingly, this was Chipotle’s first foray into national television advertising. They lived up to the mantra “go big or go home.” Now, thanks to their derring-do of running this lengthy and expensive music video, animal husbandry is part of the national conversation.

Believe it or not, there are still some people who continue to challenge the efficacy of advertising.

So the very next day, what does McDonald’s do? They issue a statement that they care about animals too. The burger maker is throwing its weight around to eliminate sow crates. We talked about that on the FLB a while back in the context of Paula Deen.

There are some who might dismiss the McDonald’s effort as trying to ride on Chipotle’s post-Grammy’s coattails. But lets back up just a second and look at what happened there.

Chipotle’s little $4 million dollar media buy elicited a response from the national advertising behemoth that spends over $500 million on time and space alone? This was already after McDonald’s had announced it would not use pink slime in its burgers, and has been running a campaign that’s all about their farmers.

But it doesn’t even stop there.

In Italy, McDonalds is working with one of the country’s most famous chefs to make specialty burgers that reflect regional cooking styles.

Do you get what this means? It means that we are winning. Enough people are starting to walk away from fast food for healthier, more delicious, and sustainable options that the largest companies are starting to notice. More importantly, they are trying to do something about it.

Granted, most of what they seem to be doing is improving their marketing around these issues. But at least it’s a start. I never suspected to even see this from McDonald’s so I’m pleased as punch.

But all of it is still more than just a little bit weird.

One Comment leave one →
  1. February 17, 2012 11:13 am

    I’m really encouraged. It feels good and it feels right when something catches on; it makes me feel like our wants and needs make a difference in production, and we’re not ALWAYS being told what to like and when. Whether it’s more gluten free options on the shelves for our celiac friends, happy meats, seasonal produce, or free wifi (hey, it’s a thing we like!), I’m happy to see it spreading like the Spanish flu in 1918.

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