Mc Donalds and how a book covers the fat kid

Mc Donalds, Foodwatch, branding
Only the best for our children

Mc Donalds has now hit Germany with its book campaign. With every Happy Meal kids get a free book. Sounds like a wonderful idea to reach the less fortunate with some education. They did the same thing in Sweden a couple of years back and I couldn’t find many who complied with my distaste for this kind of branding. Now I gladly see that Foodwatch shares my concern in an open letter and even SPIEGEL takes up the story.

I can see how this came into being. Mc Donalds marketing person asks their (probably PR) agency to  reverse the public opinion of burgers producing an army of fat kids. So they brainstorm about obesity and google their way to the fact that it is closely related to income and education. Then some strategic- creative person says that books are an international symbol for education and that this is especially strong since visual communication bypasses rational thinking. Basically a book next to the Mc Donalds logo across global media will effectively cover the fat kid.

The same guy with the retro-big glasses then says that classic children books have high nostalgic-emotional value to the grown ups (buying the Happy Meals) and presents some curves showing an increase in sales. Mc Donalds marketing person is seriously impressed, nods mildly and loves how this can be adapted for all major markets.  Whoops-a-daisy: a morally untouchable- good cause- branding campaign is born.

I guess it is better Mc Donalds gives away books than plastic toys – both for the children’s development and the environment.

But really, their business calls for something more like voluntary self-censorship, where they admit their food doesn’t promote health and stop advertizing to minors.
If they absolutely must sell products this questionable, limit the marketing to grown ups who can make deliberate choices.


  1. WOW. Bold and fresh! This picked up my Friday afternoon thoroughly. I am inclined to agree with your hypothesis on both the process and result here, despite it’s somewhat sarcastic overtone…

    Your statement:
    “Then some strategic- creative person says that books are an international symbol for education and that this is especially strong since visual communication bypasses rational thinking”
    is likely, and unfortunately, MOSTLY true, and I will be quoting it in my tweets later on. Do you have a Twitter monochre that I can attribute this to?

    Big brands truly need to begin applying a stricter spyglass to themselves. Consumers are smartening up, and more transparency is being added to products and services everyday. It is becoming increasingly difficult for brands to simply gloss over negative truths with slick campaigning and we have social media to thank for that (huzzah!).

    There has been a swing in brands focusing on improving their image through more ethical products and services as opposed to billboards and commercials, but we have a long way to go yet…

    1. Hi, I do have a twitter account, it’s juliastockholm.
      True, more and more brands are using CSR in branding, which is great when done well. I just think it should be deeply rooted in the company’s approach, processes, culture, belief. In this case I can’t help but thinking they first slam a bottle on your head to then give you some aspirin and expect a medal for excellent care 🙂
      See you on twitter!

  2. What’s new at McDonald’s? Among the food chain restaurant in the country, McDonald’s has been my all-time favorite. It started when I worked as a local store marketing more than a decade ago and happened to learn more about their products, procedure and the quality that they provide.

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