Sandra Ericson|Oct 24, 2014

It’s been a few weeks since rbb announced that we’ve formed a joint venture –  Gibbs-rbb. It’s a company that understands and speaks to the Conscious ConsumerTM, those who demand to know what’s in their food, how it’s made and are willing to spend more with those brands who have the right answers.

The timing couldn’t be better, in my opinion, as this trend has officially spilled over from the granola eating, yoga practicing, exclusively Whole Foods shopping margins to the mainstream.

Because there’s nothing more mainstream than McDonald’s, with billions of hamburgers served all over the world. And with its new integrated marketing campaign, the fast food chain is finally coming to grips with the fact that the Conscious Consumer is not only here to stay, but growing exponentially and making choices that seriously impact the bottom line for many companies.

After reporting the worst sales in 10 years, and recovering from a food safety scandal in China and another “something gross in my food” social media crisis in Canada, McDonald’s has made a risky, yet potentially brand-altering move. As CEO Don Thompson explained to shareholders: “We recognize that we must demonstrate to our customers and the entire McDonald’s System that we understand the problems we face and are taking decisive action to fundamentally change the way we approach our business.”

The new campaign addresses the worst brand rumors head on using none other than “MythBusters” star Grant Imahara to do the dirty work. McDonalds’ “Our Food. Your Questions” campaign debunks pink slime fillers in the meat and hamburgers that never decay after years of not being refrigerated, and it also allows consumers to send in their questions to be answered on social media.

It seems other PR pundits shared my initial reaction. Had McDonald’s made a classic crisis management blunder by amplifying its negative perceptions to existing customers and others who hadn’t ever heard the rumors before?

And yes, it’s possible. We’ve seen numerous cases of well-intentioned, interactive social campaigns go horribly awry recently.  The good news is that rbb’s Breakout Brand Brands research shows companies that interact with their customers and create rich feedback loops do better with 83 percent saying they’d pay more for a brand they have a personal connection with.

So whether or not this campaign is the right approach remains to be seen, but the facts don’t lie. And McDonald’s is on a fast decline with Conscious Consumers choosing to spend their money at Chipotle, Panera and other more millennially tuned-in, fast casual brands.

I’m a big fan of taking risks when the alternative is lying paralyzed in fear while the inevitable takes you down. But if you’re going to do it you have to go big with no-holds-barred.

And I feel McDonald’s is doing that. Take this perfectly positioned answer to the ridiculous Twitter question about whether the chain’s food contains human flesh:

What will be the true success measure of this campaign is whether the public believes them or not. Or has the Conscious Consumer already made up its collective mind?


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