Less I ruin my personal brand image, let me first say that I am not a fan of McDonald’s food. I don’t even let my kids eat there. In their 14 and 18 years, they’ve been to a McDonald’s only once and that was at a train station in Beijing where there was no other safe place to eat before boarding an all nighter to Xi’an.
Nor am I a fan of the “I’m Lovin’ It” campaign that has run for the last few years. Seems that love is a word that gets thrown around way too generously in advertising. Can you really love calorie-filled burgers and fries?
OK, I admit to being a snob.
But I must say this Super Bowl spot gets two thumbs up. In a year that has been filled with way too much hate — racial profiling, rabid politics and domestic abuse — the idea that McDonald’s will let some customers pay with a hug, or a phone call to Mom, or a declaration of love to a teenage son is not only sweet, it’s a dead on meaningful sentiment that manages to touch on all the recent social issues without the excess and forced executions we’re seeing from other brands.
Sure the priority is to generate buzz, conversation, and social sharing. And yes, it’s a little like a sweepstakes in that folks may head into McDonald’s during the promotion in hopes of being randomly selected. But at the same time, it’s a simple reminder to us all, not unlike the message conveyed by American Greetings’ Toughest Job, that we should remember to tell the people we care about that we do, in fact, care.
OK, true, we shouldn’t need reminding, but apparently some of us do. And for some reason unless we’re totally cynical we don’t seem to mind when a brand gives us a nudge. We like it even more if there’s something in it for us.
Today most good advertising conveys a brand’s belief rather than the virtues or features of its products. So we can never be sure if a marketer is being honest or simply trying to tap into consumer sentiment. Given the low wages it pays employees and the healthiness, or lack thereof, of the food it makes, McDonald’s leaves itself a little suspect. But if it somehow inspires us to actually show a bit more love and affection, well, maybe that’s a good thing. Mickey D’s will never be John L, but at least it’s singing the right tune with a smart, topical message that’s well executed and hard not to like.
Of course it won’t take long for user-generated content to kick, but those are the chances we all take. Oh, look what we have here.
Note of interest: Compare this to Burger King, who did, in its way, a similar in-store buzz-generating idea a few years ago. It was called Whopper Freakout.