4 Rebranding Principles Gleaned From The Golden Arches

A lot has changed under the golden arches since Ray Kroc opened the first franchise 60 years ago and turned McDonald’s into the most successful fast-food chain on the planet. The company now faces serious brand challenges that threaten to turn Ronald McDonald’s infamous grin upside down.

According to a recent article in USA TODAY, getting McDonald’s back on its feet will be a supersized job. Tough financial realities led to Steve Easterbrook’s recent promotion to CEO, and he has a steep challenge ahead of him.

Changing from the inside out

Easterbrook is driven by the turnaround McDonald’s has to make to reconnect with customers, which he openly announced in a video to Wall Street. Still, this turnaround is no small task, and it must involve a companywide change. Knowing that big company brands involve three interconnecting audiences, Easterbrook will need to address the perceptions of each group.

To address these audiences’ needs, Easterbrook will need to build brand trust — something he has publicly committed to. His plans include making a consistent commitment to investing in brand equity and growing trust systematically across the globe. According to an article in TheStreet, he plans to address three specific issues:

First, he’ll remove the red tape. For McDonald’s to compete, Easterbrook believes it needs to implement ideas quicker and more effectively — both operationally and on the menu. He also believes having the right people in the right positions will enhance the business’s effectiveness.

Next, he’ll tackle food quality. Easterbrook admitted that consumers are reframing the conversation around food quality. He hasn’t given many specifics, but he promises that McDonald’s is still in the business of serving the best burger possible and that the company has “recommitted to hot, fresh food.”

Lastly, Easterbrook believes that McDonald’s is “powered by the passion of men and women to grow great restaurants.” In an effort to increase profits and fuel this passion, McDonald’s will be refranchising 3,500 restaurants in the next four years. This decision will increase the number of franchise-operated stores from 81 to 90 percent globally.

Learning from the best

The process of rebranding is not linear — as McDonald’s current situation illustrates — but it is reproducible. McDonald’s may be a fast-food giant, but its story contains lessons and future challenges that apply to companies of all sizes and industries.

Here are four principles that will build brand trust in any organization:

1. Be intentional.

Once a company has decided to rebrand, it should develop a plan that consolidates its brand promise and articulates it in a clean, progressive way. In his statement to Wall Street, Easterbrook clearly communicated his plan for the golden arches. History will reveal whether his plan is capable of bringing back Ronald McDonald’s big red smile, but the company definitely has a new, compelling focus.

2. Go beyond the logo.

A brand is three-dimensional and means more than simply a logo. Once Easterbrook focuses on the conceptual issues, his team can turn its efforts to more concrete applications. Successful businesses like McDonald’s can revamp their brand experiences and boost sales by branching out into the digital world with ads, viral videos, and social engagement. Easterbrook knows that the image of the golden arches alone will not solve his sales issues.

3. Create an unforgettable experience.

A company’s brand experience should linger beyond consumer touch points. Effective businesses will make customers feel like they’re part of something big — something beyond themselves. McDonald’s is starting with food quality, but it would be wise to think beyond the taste of the chicken nuggets to the entire dining experiences.

4. Stay in touch with company roots.

It’s easy to get excited about the process of rebranding, caught up in what’s cool or trendy, and forget about the company’s core values. Yet Easterbrook has decided to focus on the past in his franchising strategy. The McDonald’s brand began when Ray Kroc opened the first franchise in Des Plaines, Illinois, in 1955. By increasing the number of franchises and empowering their owners, Easterbrook is respecting the company’s roots.

We need to have a good reason to remain the same as we are,” said Easterbrook. Rather than attempt to address misperceptions or stereotypes about the brand with words, he plans to take action. Action is key to building brand trust, and it’s a great place to start.

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