Friday, April 28, 2006
UK McDonald’s in crisis
The Sunday Times of 23th April 2006 reports about McDonald’s being in crisis in Britain.
“McDonald’s faces a tough battle in the UK, having to fight declining sales, an increasingly vociferous anti-obesity lobby and intense competition” writes the London newspaper.
From our viewpoint as animal activists campaigning to spread vegetarianism, it teaches us 2 lessons in strategy:
1) Publicity campaigns carried out in major media do produce massive results. McDonald’s in the UK has been hit by all the furore surrounding the ‘health fad’, as The Sunday Times puts it, promoted in recent months by various high-profile forms of advertising. Examples of these are celebrity chefs criticizing current school meals and launching healthier alternatives to them, and the bombardment to which British TV viewers have been submitted over the Christmas holiday period with program after program highlighting the health risks of fat-rich diets, condemning a long list of foods and drinks for contributing to diseases, showing shocking or disgusting pictures of abnormally obese people (and of their body products too), and so on.
In fact, McDonald’s has not been the only commercial victim of this: fizzy, sugary drinks’ sales have been affected too.
True, McDonald’s has seen its popularity decline over a period of time for other adverse publicity reasons, but nothing has hit them as much as the recent ‘health fad’.
2) There is probably a market for a vegetarian fast food restaurants chain, a vegetarian McDonald’s. If somebody invested money, time and effort in it, it would likely be a succes. I think of it as a number of diners, American-style, sort of 50s, with juke-boxes. They should also have internet points, magazines, videos; they should become a place in which young people meet, not just to have a meal but also for social purposes, to find old friends and to make new ones. They should be aimed at youngsters, perhaps teenagers, and be perceived by them as cool and hip places.
Why? Because this is the group we want to target. Young people are already more vegetarian, on average, than the rest of the population. We want to encourage that, because they are obviously the future. Youngsters like fast food joints: there’s nothing wrong with that, per se. Our aim is to create an association in their minds between vegetarianism and places which are fun and cool, places where their friends choose to hang around, places which have nothing to do with the past but are evocative of the future, new and fresh.
This is the sort of ‘campaigning’ on which I believe we should focus more: not just on the negative, but on the positive too, and not just using reason and logic or even appeals to compassion, but also taking into consideration and acting on people’s needs, desires and psychological make-up.