Absurdly Driven looks at the world of business with a skeptical eye and a firmly rooted tongue in cheek. 

Some brands boast of knowing their customers.

They claim technology makes this even easier.

I'm not really sure you can know anyone really, even if you think you do.

Humans are infernally fickle.

The one thing you can do, however, is listen and watch.

Why aren't they buying your product as much? Where else might they be going for greater satisfaction?

For years, McDonald's was very slow in this regard.

Somehow, being so big meant it stared at its own navel. Finding a reason for real change -- and then making it -- was a chore.

Or even impossible.

Lately, however, the chain has begun to think about how its customers have changed.

It's introduced touchscreen ordering. It's tried to make Happy Meals healthier. (Well, relatively.)

Even more revolutionary, perhaps, is its introduction of menu items from, gasp, abroad.

McDonald's most drastic move, however, was something few ever thought would really happen.

Last year, the chain switched to fresh beef. 

Well, in its Quarter Pounders.

Would customers celebrate this move toward non-frozen ingredients?

Or would they fear that the gloriously unhealthy taste with which they've become so enamored would be lost amid a pandering to the eco-crowd?

The results are in.

Last week, McDonald's crowed that the move to fresh beef meant that Quarter Pounder sales went up 30 percent.

Now there's a surprise. 

The chain admitted to CNN that this was a painful move for both its own business and, more especially, for its franchisees.

At heart, though, is one huge lesson worth embracing by every brand.

As Marion Gross, the Chief Supply Officer for McDonald's told CNN: 

Our customers are changing at a super-fast pace. As a result, we've had to change, too.

The whole world is changing at a super-fast pace. You can decide whether it's a good thing.

However, if you want to keep customers, you have to gain a better understanding of what they care about.

McDonald's says customer enthusiasm for fresh beef is all about transparency.

It isn't. It's about believing that fresh food is (slightly) better for you than frozen.

I tried the fresh beef Quarter Pounder when it first came out. It did taste a little juicier than the slightly gray McDonald's patty with which I was familiar.

I'm not at all surprised that sales have gone up.

However, now that the company has seen the effect of offering fresh produce, will it drive toward extending it across all its burgers?

Oh, I fear there still might be a few organizational obstacles before that happens.

Published on: Jun 30, 2019
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.