McDonald’s has long been a target of critics of toy-filled Happy Meals who believe that these menu offerings are used to entice kids to eat fast food. The same goes with people who call for the retirement of Ronald McDonald(though one could argue that having a terrifyingperma-grin clown as the face of your company isn’t exactly kid-friendly). But McDonald’s kid-targeted marketing doesn’t rely on Happy Meals; it extends into their schools and maybe even to their homes.
Mother Jones’ Kiera Butler breaks down the multiple ways in which the Golden Arches advertise their brand to youngsters, including:
Through kids’ moms: McDonald’s bizarrely titled Moms’ Quality Correspondents program (seriously, a company with a $92 billion market cap couldn’t come up with a better name?) is described as “an exciting project to address questions that moms—and dads—have been asking about what their kids are eating.”
Essentially, it’s a handful of moms espousing McDonald’s talking points and hoping that other parents will listen. Or rather, as the company put it in a press release, “using word-of-mouth to build trust with other moms, and spread the McDonald’s food quality story.”
In School: Another program with an obvious title-by-committee is Go Active with Ronald McDonald, described as a “fun and active show for both the body and mind.”
It’s basically Ronald and some other McD’s characters going to schools to act out a 40-minute show encouraging kids to exercise.
“It’s what I eat AND what I do,” says Ronald during the show. Of course, at least some of those kids will be thinking about how much they want to eat McDonald’s by the end of those 40 minutes.
The program is completely free to elementary schools, though educators should probably be compensated since the kids are being advertised to for nearly an hour.
From Their Teachers: You’ve probably heard about these McTeacher’s Nights fundraisers that feature school employees working at a Golden Arches in exchange for a “percentage of sales from the event” that is donated to the school.
Teachers aren’t just encouraged to work these nights, but to “help generate school donations,” which likely means telling their students to come on out to McDonald’s and enjoy some food.
It may be for a good cause, but again, McDonald’s is reaping an advertising and marketing benefit from families who may not have gone to the restaurant otherwise.
And the donation may end up being only a small fraction of the sales that night. This one McDonald’s in Ohio brought in around $1,273 during a recent McTeacher night; only $191 (15%) of that was donated to the school.
Beyond Happy Meals: 5 Devious Ways McDonald’s Markets to Kids [MotherJones.com]