Strong Storytelling in McDonald’s Supplier Videos … But Do They Work?

More to the point, do they fortify the McDonald’s brand?

I can understand McDonald’s quest to associate with suppliers who take a certain “hand-crafted” approach to their products. The message serves as a counterbalance to the perception that McDonald’s is all about volume production.

Stepping back for a moment, the execution of this campaign is pretty darn good.

Click on “Lettuce,” and farmer Dirk Giannini appears with the sound of sprinklers and the periodic bird chirp in the background.

McDonalds Supplier storytelling

Moving to the video, the savvy storytelling from McDonald’s puts Dirk in the hero’s boots.

Too often companies insist since they’re footing the bill, they get the hero’s billing.

And it’s not easy duty to make lettuce interesting. While no one is going to springboard from this narrative to a potential blockbuster called “Return of Iceberg Lettuce,” it’s still a high-quality video.

But back to the big picture –

Does the supplier campaign bring “goodness” to the McDonald’s brand?

As much as I like the execution, the answer is no.

Branding efforts often include an aspirational spoke, a noble cause. Yet, if the gap between the reality of the brand and the aspiration becomes too great, the work loses credibility. In short, the audience doesn’t believe it.

That’s the flaw in the McDonald’s campaign. The reality of the brand, whether it be the dollar menu or interiors that affirm the prophecy in The Graduate — “I just want to say one word to you … plastics,” is congruent with the aspiration.

When Dirk the farmer utters the phrase “field to fork” in the video, what was already strained credibility becomes nonsense.

Bad branding.

As a sanity check, when I guest lectured at the USC Annenberg School of Communications, I played the lettuce video and asked the class for their reaction. Every student thought it was BS (baloney stuff).

While not exactly scientific research, I think it’s safe to say that McDonald’s should not be channeling Alice Waters.

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2 comments

2 Comments so far

  1. Diane Harrigan July 16th, 2014 6:44 pm

    I agree it takes a special story and emotional element to make an impression. Take a look at Hapa Ramen’s Kickstarter video http://kck.st/Ub7ml3 compared to what they achieved as a Wusthof ambassador — http://youtu.be/IOdydTBuqr8 – Clarity of Vision meets Quiet Dignity of Brand

  2. hoffman July 21st, 2014 11:37 am

    Hi Diane,

    Appreciate your input; Sorry for the delay in responding.

    Thought both video examples were terrific. Loved the opening that kicked off the Wustholf video- “O.k., it’s time. Let’s jump off the cliff and see what happens.” Might actually be fodder for a post.

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