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What is the Secret to McDonald’s Global Branding Success?

Ana Pomposo | May 5, 2014 | Marketing

McDonald’s is currently ranked the 6th most important brand in the world  and is one of the most visited restaurants, but how does it maintain its branding success internationally?

With a product that’s served in over 117 countries, feeding millions of customers every day, McDonald’s branding success is undeniable. The key to McDonald’s branding and marketing success is segmentation and experimentation.

But with such a customer base, how does McDonald’s maintain its ability to adapt its marketing and advertising to different countries and cultures?

The marketing strategy of McDonald’s is based on uniformity, no matter what McDonald’s you are in in the world,  you will always have the most iconic items.

To gain an insight into how McDonald’s does this we decided to look at how marketing in the US, the home of McDonald’s, differs with that in Japan, whose market is worth 15 percent of McDonald’s empire.

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Segmentation

McDonald’s main focus is the US, where they spend most of their budget and trial more new products and innovations. The American audience is their largest – Americans spend more money at McDonald’s than any other fast food restaurant in the country.

In the US, advertising normally targets children. Did you know that American kids see more than 250 McDonald’s advertisements per year?

In Japan, the advertising campaigns are more varied when approaching the demographics, sometimes they focus on children but they also target adults. One advertisement used McDonald´s as a fetish object with sexy girls promoting the burgers, something you would never see in the US.

McDonalds a brand that’s been built through strategic marketing segmentation. The questions you have to ask are:

  • What are the wants/needs and tastes of the customers?
  • Is the marketing up to date, reflecting the changing customer needs and demands?

Although a multinational giant, McDonald’s adapts its business and menu to the different countries they operate in. They respect cultural differences and every country has its own policy of developing menu items. 

Testing

Experimentation is vital, and it is often carried out by adding or deleting food from menus according to latest consumer trends and local popularity.

In Japan, apart from the traditional menu you can find seasonal and limited-time items such as “The Teri Tama Burger”, served during spring or “The Tsukimi Burger”, served during Tsukimi season (in the autumn). In the US there are the popular “McRibs”, just available for a short time each year.

This is a good example of adapting to customers’ tastes, vital when talking about marketing.

Experimentation is vital, and it is often carried out by adding or deleting food from menus according to latest consumer trends and local popularity.

The Secret Sauce

It is true that the marketing and branding strategy of McDonald’s is based on uniformity, no matter where in the world, you will always be able to order the most iconic menu items such as the Big Mac.

The same kind of atmosphere and experience mean that  your expectations will be fulfilled, because you know what you can expect from the restaurant.

Despite its geographic variety the brand is actually very consistent, with a lot of attention to detail to ensure the values are applied globally.

Global Product Marketing

When we look at the strategic differences between US McDonald’s and the Japanese version, we can appreciate the localized marketing strategies.

For example, the name of the restaurant is adjusted for the katakana, the appropriate Japanese script for foreign words. In Japan, they call it ‘Makudonarudo’, (マクドナルド), a more appropriate and attractive sound in Japanese.

Drink sizes and fries are much smaller than the ones in the US, and burgers are a bit smaller too, to suit eating habits. McDonald’s ensures the correct sizes before exporting for international target markets.

Although McDonald’s offers its products everywhere in the world, being the most popular restaurant on the planet, the brand keeps recognizable with its original meaning and identity whilst catering to local tastes.

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Innovation and Collaboration

For McDonalds, globalization has meant embracing and engaging different cultures while at the same time retaining a strong enough brand to be immediately identifiable.

But how can you ensure your brand transcends cultures and regional approaches to marketing? This is where online innovations really come into their own by bridging the cultural and physical gaps that can inhibit connection with a global audience.

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