Branding is an essential part of business success, and McDonald’s is no exception. Over the years, the company has created a strong and powerful brand strategy that many consider to be a benchmark for branding in the fast food industry. By leveraging iconic characters like the Hamburglar and Grimace alongside the classic ‘Golden Arches’, McDonald’s tapped into cultural trends while creating a consistent experience no matter what location customers visited.
The result of this comprehensive branding effort meant that when people thought of fast food, they thought of McDonald’s. In other words, McDonald’s became synonymous with quality fast food and customer satisfaction due to its skillful use of branding to create customer loyalty and ultimately become king of the fast food industry.
Whenever you see a giant pair of golden arches, what image comes to mind? Is it a friendly, helpful clown? A thick, delicious shake? Hot, golden fries and a juicy burger? The fact that in almost any country you visit or nearly every demographic you ask, the sight of a giant, yellow letter “M” tells those seeing it that there’s a McDonald’s somewhere in the vicinity.
That’s the power of branding. After more than 500 billion burgers sold, their brand strategy has made McDonald’s the undisputed King of Fast Food.
But, how did the franchise earn that title? More importantly, how can you put their strategies to work for your brand?
Why Your Brand Strategy Matters
Your brand is more than just a name, a symbol, or a logo. It’s an indelible association between what those things mean in the minds of the consumer. Brand is a company’s identity distilled into an image that links a product or service with satisfaction, quality, relief, or whatever else the intended purpose.
When that association is created and nurtured over time, all it takes is an image or tagline to recall those associations and compel the customer to act.
Building a strong brand identity:
* Sets customer expectations
* Fosters brand loyalty
* Improves customer retention rates
* Increases your company’s value
* Contributes to staff morale
* Distinguishes your company from the competition
It also allows you to create a demand or command a premium price for goods and services.
If your brand is the emotional connection created between you and your audience, brand strategies are the actions your company takes to forge those emotional connections. Done right, your brand strategy communicates your company’s vision, core values, and purpose. It will also allow you to identify weaknesses, focus your efforts, and become more accountable for your actions.
When you visit a McDonald’s restaurant, what are your expectations? You expect fast, budget-friendly fare that looks and tastes a certain way, and that you will have your expectations met in a consistent manner at each and every visit.
Those expectations were created and nurtured through a very simple, effective long-term brand strategy. You’ve been conditioned to expect certain things by their marketing campaigns, word of mouth, and past experience with the company.
When those expectations are met and reinforced with consistency over time, you’re a happy customer.
McDonald’s: A Step-by-Step Roadmap for Success
The steps McDonald’s took to become a leader in the fast food industry aren’t complicated or expensive. There are three major components that can be easily incorporated into your own brand strategy and scaled or elaborated as needed.
From identifiable characters like Ronald McDonald and Hamburglar to additions like indoor playgrounds and Happy Meals with toys, it has always been clear that McDonald’s markets to a core audience of children. What’s more, their business model is food that’s simply prepared, cheap, and fast. Those things appeal to picky, childish, palates and a parent’s pocketbook.
Once they had their demographic locked, they were able to expand their menu to appeal to those same parents without diminishing their appeal to the original demographic. When consumers demanded healthier menu selections, McDonald’s complied to give those customers options.
It’s not enough to know who you want to serve. You should use all of the tools and experience at your disposal to create an ideal persona and create a plan to address their specific needs. Make sure that your strategy is flexible enough to change with evolving consumer demand and social constructs without sacrificing your core identity.
McDonald’s was able to corner the fast food burger market by creating a solid, identifiable brand and then taking it global. I travel a lot, and I can attest that you can find the familiar golden arches in almost everyplace that a decent sized city exists.
The golden arches on a plain red background are recognizable anywhere you travel. There’s something a little comforting about that when you’re far away from home. However, they work hard to respect the demographic in each new market they enter.
For example, I discovered that the menu in Greece includes a Big Mac variation on pita bread with tzatziki. The locations in India don’t serve beef or pork, but you can get a very delicious substitute by choosing their Chicken Maharaja Mac.
Whether you’re looking to expand farther into your region or make a splash on the global stage, keep your core values and product line consistent with your brand while still respecting the customer.
From their logo to their menu and the payout of their restaurants, McDonald’s keep it clean and simple. Even when they branch out into other countries and cultures, they keep the same core menu items that customers have come to expect, and they’ll add local cuisine with a McDonald’s twist.
Create a reputation, take a simple, direct approach to marketing, and provide a consistent, quality customer experience that’s unified across all offerings and platforms.
Branding Mistakes to Avoid
The first mistake any business can make is not understand the power of their brand. Customers respond to a strong brand identity by giving back in terms of trust, loyalty, and providing social proof. They’re more likely to spend extra, recommend more often, and experience higher degrees of satisfaction when they identify with a well-branded business.
Building your brand identity allows you to avoid other common mistakes, such as:
* Failing to create strict brand guidelines and best practices
* Not creating an identifiable brand voice
* Lack of clarity
You don’t have to be a huge corporation to tap into the power of branding. Use the model of successful brands as a template to create an effective brand strategy that will solidify your own.
If you need expertise to guide you on your journey from unknown to industry leader, a branding specialist from Level343 will show you how it’s done.