It’s been a while since we’ve last talked, and a lot has happened. You’ve started serving breakfast all day (great move), you now offer tons of coffee options (okay move), and you’ve attempted to become healthier (…meh). And while I applaud all the changes you’ve implemented on the quest to become your best self, I can’t help but miss the old you.
I understand your desperation to re-brand — really, I do. You’ve been rocked by scandals that would’ve challenged the PR talents of any corporation, no matter how powerful. You know what I’m talking about: 2004’s earth-shattering documentary Super-Size Me and later, 2012’s “Pink Slime-Gate.” It’s no wonder you’ve felt the need to stuff your menu full of kale sandwiches with hass avocados, and have been forced to re-brand in the image of fast-casual juggernauts like Panera and Chipotle. I get it. You need to keep up with the times, and “pink slime” isn’t today’s buzzword — wellness is.
The thing is, your revamped, bougie health food menu has made me nostalgic for simpler times.
Times when my mother would take me to McDonald’s for a Happy Meal on Thursdays after ballet practice. Back then, if a cashier had asked me if I wanted an “artisanal sandwich with buttermilk ranch,” I would’ve replied: “Gesundheit.” But now, the word on the street is that you’re planning on turning Mickey D’s into a part-time bakery, serving items like cinnamon coffee cake and apple pies with lattice crusts. Hearing news like this makes me even more anxious for your future. What’s next — Almond Milk McFlurries? Veggie Burger Big Macs?
Although you’ve been serving salads since 1988, it’s my opinion that it was the introduction of the Fruit and Yogurt Parfait in 2000 that instigated the surge of “healthier,” higher-end menu items. It all snowballed from there. You’ve now morphed into an unruly franken-health titan, offering kale-laced breakfast bowls, burgers with maple-bacon dijon mustard, and 100-calorie muffin tops. By the way, these “healthier options” are mediocre at best. Why would I go to McDonald’s for a salad when I could go to the farm-to-table cafe down the block, where the lettuce will actually be fresh? To your loyal fans, this is comparable to when Michael Jordan attempted to be a professional baseball player. The general consensus was: Why try to be so-so at one thing when you’re already great at something else?
My criticisms come from a place of love, though.
In my eyes, your brand is on-par with giants like Nike, Coca-Cola, and Apple. You are as much a part of American identity as the 4th of July, baseball, or the Kardashians. How many of us have turned to McDonald’s for comfort and convenience in times of stress, uncertainty, or even celebration? Who among us hasn’t been on a seemingly endless road trip and breathed a sigh of relief when we saw the iconic Golden Arches on the horizon?
My point is: McDonald’s is one of the most successful brands in the world. You’re present in 121 countries with over 35,000 locations. You don’t need to prove yourself anymore — your fries and McNuggets have earned you your crown. And although you find Five Guys and Shake Shack so threatening, these brands have ironically never attempted to brand themselves as healthy. They’ve never tried to be anything other than what they really are: fast food. Their brands are built on the good-old fashioned treat yo’ self mentality that makes customers feel completely at-ease (if maybe a little indulgent). If you, McDonald’s, embraced who you really are, that simple act of brazen pride might be charming enough to convince those who’ve strayed to come back to you.
So, my question to you is: Why not go back to your fries, milkshakes, and burgers? Consumers love to give their money to brands they believe in. And if we can’t believe in a Big Mac from McDonald’s, what can we believe in? What if the hallmark of true cultural relevance was being comfortable enough to go back to the basics? Leave the kale to the hipsters. When you do, I’ll be back, and I’ll be lovin’ it.
A Sucker For The Golden