McDonald’s Journey From 1940s California BBQ Joint to SXSW Sponsor

Wooing a new generation

In 1940, Richard and Maurice McDonald started a BBQ joint in San Bernardino, Calif. It took eight years for the rookie restaurant to develop its brand and switch focus exclusively to burgers and French fries, solidifying itself as the greasy hamburger connoisseur we think of today.

In 1955, McDonald's franchises were introduced when businessman Ray Kroc came into the picture, opening the first location in Des Plaines, Ill. Since then, the fast-food giant, thanks in part to its iconic Big Mac, has become synonymous with America and consumerism. With more than 35,000 outlets around the world, McDonald's serves almost 70 million customers a day, lending credence to its "billions and billions served" billboard tagline.

The fast-food mainstay has come a long way since 1940, and just might be more American than apple pie. Through myriad sponsorships like Nascar, the National Football League, Olympics and others, McDonald's has proven its name and message can be translated to a range of audiences. Need more proof? Both Woody Allen and LeBron James have been spokespeople for the burger chain.

Now, McDonald's, and every other brand on earth, has its sights set firmly on millenials. And there may be no better way to reach them than infiltrating their world, which is exactly what McDonald's hopes to do as South by Southwest Interactive's sponsor. This is the first time McDonald's has shown up in Austin for the event, and it's hanging its hopes on quirky activations, healthier menus and more–hoping beyond hope that the young tech set will want to sit at its table in the cafeteria. They didn't get off to the best start, but anything is possible.