Monday, November 19, 2012

McDonald’s Online, and the Effects of Going Global
A guest post by Anna Wachter

Over the years, companies such as McDonald’s have begun to broaden their horizons, growing both online and offline. The business has begun to expand all around the world, and the need for an understanding of the different countries’ social dos and don’ts has become more necessary than ever in an attempt to attract new customers, while retaining the following they have already gathered. As the times change, these corporations are essentially forced to modernize alongside their customers, or risk looking as though they are out of touch.  There are multiple ways to go about this strategy, and McDonald’s has kept up with these social changes extremely well. They have seemingly effortlessly converted into a company that is present in both real life and online, with websites, advertisements and more. As McDonald’s constructs its online image, one that seems to embrace equality towards its customers, the company also has masterfully kept the company uniform as a whole, while adjusting minor points in its operations in each individual country they do business with. They achieve this through a mix of relations between the individual of a certain culture on a small and large scale. If the consumer feels as though he really matters and isn’t just an insignificant nothing in the eyes of the corporation, he will be more likely to become a loyal customer, no doubt encouraging the company to create websites that cater specifically to the individual.
An example of an answer on McDonald's page.
One example of such a website is one McDonald’s Canada page dedicated to answering the questions of everyday customers. The set up is easy to follow, with an opportunity for the viewer to see any question that has been answered previously. For example, James B. of Toronto, Ontario asks: “Are your hamburgers bad for me?” This is a general question, and the answer given by the representatives of the fast food chain make their answer clear. They wouldn’t want to say anything bad about their company, so their answers tend to be general. This is obvious in questions about the preservative use in McDonald’s fries. This question is asked often, and McDonald’s is consistent with its response. There are many instances of repeat questions, which McDonald’s representatives patiently answer each time, most likely to reinforce these ideas. Patience is key, because if the representatives responding were to lose patience, it could risk the loss of a customer. Overall, losing only one customer wouldn’t be the end of the company, but McDonald’s is most likely not willing to risk the bad publicity that comes with impatience at the never-ceasing questions. And so, they continue to answer them.
McDonald’s has many ways of answering the questions that come up on this website, including making videos. One example of these videos is answering a question from an “Isabel M. from Toronto Ontario.”

  This method of answering a real person’s is a good way to attract new customers.

In her article “Environmental and Sustainability Ethics in Supply Chain Management”, Benita Beamon discusses the role of a chain restaurant. She states her argument: “The purpose of supply-chain management is to supply. Ethical supply refers to the practice of providing goods and services to customers while subscribing to an ethical code” (Beamon 221). Although she doesn’t address McDonald’s directly, a lot of her argument can be related to almost any corporation. She lists three categories that a business can fall into when it comes to responsibility (minimalist, reasonable care and good works).  While there are no direct accusations thrown, her ideas can be applied easily to a company as vast as McDonald’s, and can be looked at as a subtle criticism of large companies.
            One author that is critical specifically about McDonald’s is author David Boje, in his article “Fiction and Humor in Transforming McDonald’s Narrative Strategies”.
“Ronald…detailed and controlled, every aspect of his behavior is micromanaged” (200). The company needs to have Ronald put in the most positive light possible while still having him and the products appeal to children, making this “micromanagement” exceedingly important. Boje also discusses McDonald’s “global-yet-local approach…McDonald’s also had to modify its strategy and adapt to local conditions by, for example, varying its menu”.(Boje 198). He gives specifics, talking about the Green Curry Burger available in Hong Kong, “ a taste of Thai but incredibly popular in Hong Kong” (198). Boje also addresses stakeholders in the company. “McDonalds has also made strides to be responsive and to adapt its strategy to better align with stakeholder expectations. For its act of corporate social responsibility, for example, hiring disabled workers and accommodating disabled customers…or sponsoring Ronald McDonald houses, McDonald’s has been praised as an exemplary global citizen” (198). Boje goes on, however, to argue that “Highly publicized strategic alliances and collaborations, such as McDonald’s partnership with the Environmental Defense Fund and The Natural Step group… enhance McDonald’s reputation for being environmentally responsible…signal social responsibility to McDonald’s stakeholders, …seem responsive enough to stakeholders but do not distract from its core competitive advantage” (Boje 199). So basically, McDonald’s is putting on a bit of a false front, looking as though they are more involved than they actually are, while in actuality the focus is, and always will be, making money.
Despite small attempts at bad publicity, McDonald’s is able to hold a good reputation overall. With their ability to adapt to multiple perspectives, they are able to please many people, although obviously they can’t please everyone. One commercial released for McDonald’s France would be terribly controversial in the United States, but succeeds surprisingly well in France, a country in which homosexuality is not as controversial. The ad is a perfect example of McDonald’s adapting to culture differences in the countries in which they do business. 
The message of the advertisement itself is acceptance from the restaurant, making sure to give the message that they will not judge you as their customer. This is yet another opportunity for the restaurant to stress their caring nature. In the United States advertisements, this same message is passed, but in more subtle ways (as shown in the other samples of advertisements.)
An example of globalizing in a more direct way is in Brazil, where McDonald’s franchises have worked hard to allow free internet access to its customers, helping to decrease the digital divide, which “refers to the division of a society into information haves and information have-nots” (Lopes 113). The article continues, “McDonald’s has a well-established presence in Brazil, the first country in South America to have one of its restaurants (in 1979). This attempt to provide internet access for customers not only helps to publicize the company, but also attracts new business from people who maybe cannot afford internet access” (113). Today, McDonald’s has approximately 600 restaurants in the country and the local management has a proud tradition of delivering innovative solutions…Brazil was thus a prime location for the McInternet concept to flourish” (113). In his Article “Digital Technology and Teaching American Culture”, Bob Batchelor begins his argument with a statement about globalization. “… rather than forcing the Americanness of the McDonald’s experience on foreign consumers, the company learned from their overseas stores and changed US locations to reflect the measures taken in other countries” (Batchelor 51).  By asserting this, Batchelor makes reference to the enormous impact the internet can have on a company such as McDonald’s, specifying the McCafe, (“In the case of McDonald’s, the exchange has been dramatic. The introduction of the McCafe in Europe…for example, a stylized, more upscale offering, led in turn to significant changes in the chain’s American Locations”) (Batchelor 51).  He successfully adds to the evidence of modernization within the company.
With the change of the times comes the change of the interaction with the customer. Overall, McDonald’s seems to have become much more open about the behind the scenes look into their operations. In many ways, they attempt to connect to the customers who, as a whole (and they recognize this, something that makes their company strong) have the power to give them business or not, which essentially puts the fate of the business in the customer’s hands. This is why pleasing the individual is so important. However, they still are generally out to make a profit, as pointed out by both Boje  and Batchelor. Some criticism is going to be unavoidable; however McDonald’s has done an extraordinary job in relating directly with the consumer in order to garauntee continued success, and yet they still are able to make tons of money, and work their corporation nearly flawlessly when it comes to operation. They could be considered the epitome of big business in many ways. Not only have they (at least appeared) to share all the information a consumer could possibly want to know about their food, but they have also modernized and globalized spectacularly, moving online, and conforming to social etiquette of every country they do business in, all while giving themselves a positive reputation when it comes to customer and community service. They come off as well rounded, and that is something that works to their advantage. McDonald’s is invariably in everyone’s life. It has become a fixture in today’s world, something that took not only business skills, but a talent and a willingness to go global and go modern.     

Works Cited

Batchelor, Bob. “Digital Technology And Teaching American Culture.” Journal Of American Culture 34.1 (2011): 49-55. Academic Search Complete. Web. 9 Oct. 2012.

Boje, David, Michaela Driver, and Cai Yue. “Fiction And Humor In            Transforming Mcdonald’S Narrative Strategies.” Culture & Organization 11.3 (2005): 195-208. Academic Search Complete.  Web. 9 Oct. 2012.


  1. McDonald's may be doing a good job of appealing to the different cultures of its customers, but it's still distressing to travel in foreign places and see the "golden arches." The company represents the worst of American culture -- poor nutrition, extremely fast food and homogeneity. And although it may be doing some good works, what is it actually doing to help the local economy other than putting small eateries out of business?

    1. I agree with what you're trying to say. And the answer is not much. The drive here is money (and always will be). So why would they care if they are putting local restaurants out of business? The way they have managed to globalize is genius, but in a way this is also very unfortunate.

  2. I agree with most of what you said. Even though McDonald's is giving us a more open look into their business, I don't think I really want to know. Most of it is really disgusting, and I don't want to know what people are actually eating.

    1. Yeah, well, do you think we're actually seeing things that are entirely truthful? Porbably not. It's all smoke and mirrors, so that you THINK you're seeing what happens. But it's probably untrue.

  3. I like what the first person had said about how McDonald's appeals to different cultures. McDonalds had created the "Ronald McDonald House". I think people feel better about spending their money if they know even a small portion of it is going to charity. Agreeing with what Maia had said, I think people don't really want to know what they are eating. Sure, they know it is unhealthy but I don't think they want to know the specifics.

    1. I think one of the main reasons they donate to charity is to get extra business and good publicity. Sure, they may actually care about the project, but in the end, it most likely all comes down to profits.

  4. Erica
    Reading Rachel's post, I began to consider something...
    She mentioned "people feel better about spending their money if they know even a small portion of it is going to charity;" I completely agree, however, what exactly is McDonald's motive? I believe giving to charity is a very positive, generous action, but how generous is it when McDonald's may only give to charity when they know it may increase business? Nonetheless, what can be expected from the multimillion chain?

    1. Like I said above, having a good public image is essential in conducting a successful business. Of course it's great that they are giving to charity and creating organizations, but I also agree that the motive behind it is pretty selfish. But can we really complain? Even if their motive is not exactly ideal, they're still donating. Should that count for something?

  5. Anna, I think the "smoke and mirrors" worry that gets mentioned here in the comments is a common one. Perhaps that's why McDonald's in Canada made their photoshoot video--evidence that they're happy to show the reality of what seems to be fake. See! It's the same burger components, just arranged for the camera. The video uses a straight-shooting approach to address common anxieties. I imagine, though, that making other videos (processing of meat, for example) might be a harder task to make visually appealing.

    --Prof. Bates