• Yashasvi Swamy

McDonald's Addictive Marketing

Yashasvi Swamy

We have all heard about the horrible things junk food does to our bodies. A cautionary tale has been continuously told to us for decades. From the start of the early fast-food restaurants that offered quick, easy solutions to hungry customers, this industry has undergone a major transformation to become the behemoth it is today. Arguably, modern fast-food traces back to the first fast-food restaurant called 'The Automat' in New York. Numerous 'Automat' restaurants were built around the country to cope with its immediate success. Automats remained extremely popular throughout the 1920s and 1930s. The company also popularized the notion of "take-out" food, with its slogan "Less work for Mother". And as they say, the rest is history. McDonald's, a fast-food supplier, opened its first franchised restaurant in the US in 1955. It has become a phenomenally successful enterprise in terms of financial growth, brand-name recognition, and worldwide expansion. With its recognisable golden arches that lure us into eating its food, McDonald's is the world's largest restaurant chain by revenue, serving over 69 million customers daily in over 100 countries across 37,855 outlets as of 2018. Ray Kroc joined McDonald's in 1955, eventually taking it over, and is the one attributed for its rapid growth and success. He started to franchise and eventually bought the company from the McDonald's brothers in 1961. Ray valued advertising and marketing. “Kroc believed that advertising was an investment that would, in the end, come back many times over, and advertising has always played a key role in the development of the McDonald's Corporation.” The business model of McDonald’s is centered on the master plan “Plan To Win” which is put into order worldwide. With the mission statement “Quality, Service, Cleanliness, and Value”, the basics of food marketing. The customer experience is enhanced by the adoption of five basics : People, Products, Place, Price, and Promotion. The money that manufacturers invest in developing, pricing, promotion, and placing their products helps differentiate a food product based on both quality and recognition. And to get a better understanding we are going to dive deep into each one. So let's break these down and see what they have to offer.

Product: The product is the physical item or service provided by the company to the customers. It encompasses both the seen and unseen aspects such as appearances, assurance, and packaging. These tremendous corporations generate the idea, screen it, test the concept, carry out product development, trial runs, market research, and other technicalities. There are some familiar products like the Big Mac, basic hamburgers, and cheeseburgers that stay consistent and do not change, which is how most people get acquainted with their products for a very long period and stay familiar on the menu. We all know that fast food has its consistency and it's that consistency that we as consumers keep coming back to. The same, familiar tasting, warm, soft on the inside and crispy on the outside fries. Have we ever asked ourselves why is that? How do they maintain such consistency and accuracy every single time? The answer comes with carefully crafted food made by food scientists. Yes, specially trained food engineers craft the taste of these foods. Moskowitz, who studied mathematics and holds a Ph.D. in experimental psychology from Harvard, runs a consulting firm in White Plains. For more than three decades, he has “optimised” a variety of products for Campbell Soup, General Foods, Kraft, and PepsiCo. Now, what is product optimisation? The perfect, perfect burger that you can't seem to replicate at home? It's a simple matter of data and statistics where ordinary consumers are paid to spend hours sitting in rooms where they touch, feel, sip, smell, swirl and taste whatever product is in question. Their opinions are entered into a computer, and the data is sifted and sorted through a statistical method called ‘conjoint analysis’, which determines what features will be most attractive to consumers. The products are all calibrated to appeal to our taste buds in a way that inspires us to keep eating not too meaty but not vegetable-like food. The part of our brains called the hypothalamus that responds to food evolved to crave a variety of sweet, salty, and bitter tastes. Therefore, we would ingest a balanced diet. But fast food is designed to satisfy all of these taste desires, so you never crave anything else. These food engineers also perfect the so-called “bliss point”. The goal of the bliss point is to find the right amount of flavours or tastes. If a food balances a combination of sweetness, saltiness, and fat in just the right way, we will keep going back for more of it. That right combination triggers the reward centers in our brains, giving us a little dopamine kick, which keeps the cycle going. Many big corporations have also notoriously utilised the vanishing calorie density to its absolute perfection by making specific products where the food “melts” in your mouth-tricking your brain into thinking that what you are eating is not a mouthful of food and in turn, you continue to eat. Now you know why that family pack of Cheetos was emptied in 10 minutes and you're still craving for more. In the 1930s, the ‘fast food’ concept was gaining a lot of attraction among the masses. A lot of drive-in restaurants popped up in many places. They designed the store to enhance the quality of everything the customers see, touch, hear, and smell. Keep in mind that most of McDonald's' revenue stems from its restaurants. The art of maintaining that nostalgic feeling when you first walk in is perfected by fast-food joints. With their almost cosy, utilitarian seating, fast background music is heavily relied upon for equally fast eating. But those attractive pictures and other photos throughout the restaurant are missing some key information - the prices. This is a way of reducing the psychological pain that comes from spending money. Food retailers manage everything from menu fonts to the colour of the walls to influence how much a customer eats and how it tastes. By studying scan paths, or the way our eyes move and what they fixate on when we’re reading, menu planners have learned that we usually fixate on whatever is in the upper right-hand corner of a menu. They use that space to pitch their latest products or specials, and these items are also usually more expensive than other items.


Keeping employee costs low is one of the biggest ways McDonald’s keeps their prices low. Their strategy is to hire people with minimal work experience and pay them less as the supply is very high. McDonald’s gets a lot of its resources from poorer countries. This allows them to pay less, but get more, so they can in turn charge less for their products. They also tend to buy all of their products from the same suppliers. Their constant business and large orders get them a big fat discount.

Advertising and public relations: “IM LOVIN' IT” Sound familiar? McDonald's has established itself as a family-friendly restaurant for decades. The corporation spends 1.43 billion dollars only in the US in advertising. This includes the enormous billboards, television, radio, and internet ads. They are often also seen as sponsors at sporting events ranging from Little League to the FIFA World Cup and Olympic Games. McDonald's establishes a bridge to communicate with consumers, with various surveys, data tracking, and getting feedback so that their public relations will improve. Another infamous marketing tool is the Happy Meal toy. Children are estimated to view around 3 hours of food commercials in one week, and therefore these ads are constantly run on children's television channels. Colour Palettes:

When you picture a fast food logo what comes to mind? The bright reds, yellows, and blues? What do they have in common? These colours have been proven to stimulate hunger and attract attention, thereby making passers-by stop and think about it. Also, the colour red is associated with immediacy and importance. Now you know some of the sneaky ways of fast food giants, and it's safe to assume that it is here to stay. Therefore it is essential to understand how these corporations have made their way into every facet of everyday life to make sure that those fries are on your mind.

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