The beginning of a new year signals an opportunity to reflect on the person you were last year and who you want to be this year.
No matter the resolution, I think we can all agree that bringing a certain level of authenticity to the table is important to a person or a brand’s image – and generally, a good way to start off (and end) the year.
On that note, just two weeks into 2015, two major consumer brands are already shining a light on the reason why brand reputation can be your best friend or worst enemy.
As you may have heard, McDonalds released a feel-good TV ad during the Golden Globes this past Sunday as part of their brand relaunch. In an effort to reposition the Dollar Menu brand as the company that cares, one ad uses signs (literally) to depict McDonalds as a supportive helping hand for local communities. Despite it’s valiant efforts to refresh the struggling brand, McDonalds received immediate backlash for its good will.
Why? Because it wasn’t authentic.
McDonalds is an embattled brand that for years has received harsh criticism around unfair wages and a perception that it serves cheap junk food. Sales don’t lie – the fast food chain’s salads, which it introduced more than a decade ago, only make up two-to-three percent of its sales.
“Did we expect all this? No,” Deborah Wahl, chief marketing officer for McDonald’s USA, says of the recent backlash.
This brings me to the conundrum. McDonald’s ads didn’t work because they’re telling a story that people don’t believe. A brand’s business practices will always have an effect on its reputation and no amount of ad dollars can fix that.
Take Chipotle, for instance. This week, the brand announced that one-third of its stores would temporarily remove carnitas from their menus because of a standards violation in its supply chain. Chipotle discovered a pork supplier was not meeting its responsibly raised standard and as a result, Chipotle cut them loose.
“We would rather not serve pork at all, than serve pork from animals that are raised in this way,” said Chris Arnold, Chipotle’s communications director.
This is not just an admirable decision from an animal-rights perspective, but from a consumer health and brand awareness standpoint. This a brand, that from the very beginning, portrayed itself as a food chain unwilling to compromise its values. Despite the short-term sales decrease it might experience, Chipotle will likely feel minimal negative effects, if any, from this on-brand business decision.
If anything, Chipotle might have a thing or two to teach McDonalds, which ironically, at one point, owned 90% of the burrito chain.