Whether you care for fast food or not, McDonald's is one of America's most iconic brands. It's also the largest fast-food chain by revenue. That's a pretty powerful combination, but being big and famous doesn't necessarily make you cool. In fact, I'm not sure anyone has ever argued that McDonald's is cool.
Burger King is known for its marketing. Chick-fil-A is considered fun. Taco Bell is a little high-energy, but still pretty cool. McDonald's is, well, just McDonald's. The most exciting thing to happen there is the McRib sandwich that comes back every so often.
Managing a brand like McDonald's has become as much a science as an art, with teams of data analysts evaluating consumer trends and finding the perfect way to target them through multichannel ad campaigns. Which, despite the fact that it works, is just another way to say "boring."
Well, McDonald's apparently doesn't want to be boring anymore, and it's making a huge change in that regard. On Monday, news broke that the company is ditching its advertising partner, Omnicom's We Are Unlimited, in favor of the independent Wieden+Kennedy agency. That's according to a report from Business Insider, which details an internal memo circulated by Wieden+Kennedy.
W+K is the agency best known for creating Nike's "Just Do It" campaign, along with iconic ads for Old Spice, Sprite, KFC, and Bud Light (think Dilly Dilly). In other words, it understands how to do cool. It's worth mentioning that W+K beat out an agency (We Are Unlimited) that specializes in data and was created for the sole purpose of handling the McDonald's ad business.
The power of creativity
Maybe more important, McDonald's chose W+K because the agency understands the power of creativity in helping brands connect with people. That's no small thing. Your brand defines how people feel about you, and how you tell the story of your brand has an enormous effect on that feeling.
In a world where advertising is increasingly driven by volumes of data about consumer habits, market trends, and who knows what else, there's something to be said about the ability to tell a story that resonates with people.
Widen+Kennedy provided a statement about the news, saying that "McDonald's renewed commitment to the power of creativity is a testament to where the brand is headed. Being successful today requires a marriage between the human ways that creativity is able to evoke feelings and bring out the soul of a brand and the insights that lead to the brand's voice creativity will always be rooted in data and strategy."
Making a major change
Which leads to another interesting point for McDonald's. McDonald's not only wants you to see it differently, it also recognizes that the reason you don't is because of the story it has been telling. It knows that what it's been doing might make good sense data-wise, but that it was lacking in narrative.
Further, McDonald's was willing to make a change that many brands wouldn't. It abandoned a strategy that helped make it hugely successful but wasn't reinforcing the brand the company wanted to create.
As a sign of how important McDonald's sees this change, it's worth noting that the company was willing to allow Wieden+Kennedy to continue to work on KFC's account at the same time (though the two will be managed from offices on opposite coasts). That's unheard of in the fast-food industry, but reinforces just how far the ad business has gone away from creative storytelling in favor of data-driven digital ads.
There wasn't anyone else who brought the same focus on the power of creativity, which meant McDonald's was going to have to change all the rules in order to really change how you see its brand. Would you be willing to do the same for your business?