Almost Everything You Have Ever Wanted to Know (and more!) About the Golden Arches

In an attempt to be transparent and to protect its reputation, McDonald’s Canada has recently launched a social media campaign called Our Food, Your Questions  (Here is an article from The Globe and Mail regarding this campaign)

So what is this campaign all about? Here is the official blurb straight from the website:

Ever wanted to ask us about the food in our Canadian restaurants? Now’s your chance! We’ll answer any questions about our food – even the tough ones – then post a personal reply from McDonald’s® Canada.

A quick browse through the website shows a wide variety of burning questions from the public, including:

  • Does Mcdonalds ensure that the animals are treated ethically by the suppliers?
  • Is the Becel margarine that you use hydrogenated?
  • Do the farms you source your eggs from practice “forced molting”?

And interesting ones such as:

  • Why do Chicken McNuggets only come in three shapes?
  • Why does your food look different in the advertising than what is in the store?

*Note: these questions are presented in the users’ exact words.

The result is a no holds barred Q&A period between McDonald’s and the Canadian public. There are, however, a few ground rules.

  1. Questions are only accepted from Canadians because this audience is the focus of this campaign. Also, the question must be submitted from within Canada.
  2. The question must be about a product that is currently on the Canadian menu.
  3. Only questions are allowed – no comments or statements will be accepted
  4. The question must not contain profanity.

In my opinion, this is a much smarter and well-executed campaign than the Twitter one that McDonald’s USA ran earlier this year (read more about the failed initiative). The key reason is that the Canadian campaign is highly interactive and engaging: the company answers each individual question in detail, with some even containing a video response! In comparison, the US campaign got quickly out of control because McDonald’s USA failed to keep its finger on the pulse and actively monitor as well as respond to user tweets.

On her blog, Melissa Agnes, a social media crisis manager, praises McDonald’s Canada for keeping everything in control and making effective use of social media. I agree with her viewpoint and feel that the combination of transparency and authenticity within this campaign can really help McDonald’s Canada reclaim some of the clients that it had lost due to negative press (e.g. such as the ones that cropped up after the release of the movie Supersize Me) as well as from fierce competition within the fast food industry.

Although McDonald’s Canada really is aiming to be as transparent as possible, I feel that appropriate limits do need to be set for this and other similar campaigns. The conundrum is that you should aim to be as transparent as possible in order to gain trust; on the other hand, however, you absolutely should not risk letting things get out of hand. This is a difficult balancing act – not having enough transparency will leave the public wondering whether you have something to hide whereas having too much transparency could leave you vulnerable and scrambling to do damage control.

I believe that the ground rules that have been laid down by McDonald’s Canada are reasonable and legitimate parameters. Each company has comfort zones of different sizes so it is up to each to set its own limits. It will be interesting to see how this current campaign plays out over the next while so that other companies can learn by example what to do (or perhaps what not to do!) for their own campaigns.

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