McDonald’s Has 18 Months to Rebrand…or Else

By Shawn Paul Wood 

A report from Bloomberg’s BusinessWeek tells us that McDonald’s is “setting aside the next 18 months as a period not only to develop the normal lineup of new menu items but also to rebrand itself”. The goal is to change its image from cheap, fast food to something approaching fine(r) dining.

On its last earnings call, McDonald’s CEO Don Thompson said the goal of this soul searching is for the Golden Arches to become “a more trusted and respected brand.”

The implications for current partners DDB and Leo Burnett are less clear.


McDonald’s faces serious image challenges; according to Infegy, a company that analyzes social media, 38 percent of online conversations about McDonald’s over the past year have been negative.

Additionally, sales continue to slide for the entire brand according to year-over-year numbers, and Chipotle Mexican Grill (CMG) has even surpassed McDonald’s. On the call, Thompson announced that its core products such as the Big Mac, Egg McMuffin and fries—three items that account for about 40 percent of sales—will be “at the center of the food efforts” along with “menu additions to be focused around ‘premium’ beef and chicken items, breakfast food, and coffee and blended ice drinks.”

While there’s no real indication of an agency review, the company did blame its ads for weak sales back in 2013:

“We believe that some of the creative [national TV ads] that have aired in recent quarters in the U.S. have not resonated as well with McDonald’s customer base as the company would like to see…We would also not rule out the possibility of ad-agency changes at some point.”

DDB Worldwide Chairman Emeritus Keith Reinhard slams any inference that DDB/Chicago might lose its AOR status for McDonald’s in this story in the Chicago Business Journalbut he does have an idea as where some improvements can be made:

“…Reinhard also said he believes storytelling in advertising — something that has been in short supply everywhere in advertising in recent years — will make a comeback.”

In other words, expect different messages from the company moving forward.