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As Colonel Nathan Jessep in "A Few Good Men," actor Jack Nicholson practically spits out the line: "You can't handle the truth." When I read John Schmeltzer's June 11th article in the Chicago Tribune about McDonald's newly launched public relations move toward "transparency" with moms, that's what I wondered: Can McDonald's really handle the truth?


First of all, they definitely get points for taking the risk, especially since as Schmeltzer points out in the article, the fast food giant claims it will post, unedited (!) the blog posts/journals of the six women they selected (from a group of 4,000 applicants). In addition to simply writing about their own personal experiences with the McDonald's in their towns, these women will actually work in one of the restaurants, tour a hamburger plant, and visit a supplier's apple orchard.
Wow. Talk about getting the inside scoop on Fast Food Nation! It could be very revealing in both positive and negative ways and McDonald's, apparently, is willing to take that risk. They will post the women's journals beginning this Wednesday, June 20th.
From the marketing to women perspective:
1) Women are still surprised and delighted to be asked for their input - in just about any industry.
2) Women appreciate such attempts at transparency, but still may be a little cynical. In this case, the moms will/should be looking to see if the company really holds to its vow to reveal all - good and bad.
3) By going grassroots - getting it right from the mouths/typing fingers of a small group of core customers - McDonald's will likely discover little details of customer experience that may not have otherwise filtered up through traditional focus groups or huge quantitative studies.
4) Whether this effort "succeeds" or not (and how will they measure that?), McDonald's will definitely end up with a much better understanding of how the minds of their mom-customers work, what language they use when they are talking about providing meals for their families, and how they can work to be more relevant in the daily, more health-aware lives of today's women, in general.
I look forward to checking out the journals and seeing how long this effort is maintained by the brand. (As an aside - it might also be a good public relations move for McDonald's to share how they went about selecting the six "Moms' Quality Correspondents" out of that field of 4,000...)
So, the question of whether or not McDonald's can handle the truth instead becomes what they will do with that truth.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

image of Andrea Learned
Andrea Learned is a noted author, blogger, and expert on gender-based consumer behavior. Her current focus is on sustainability from both the consumer and the organizational perspectives. Andrea contributes to the Huffington Post and provides sustainability-focused commentary for Vermont Public Radio.