CreativityStrategy & Marketing

McDonald’s Success and The Power of Change

The Wall Street Journal reports that one of the key reasons for the continued success of McDonalds restaurants during this financial recession is the power of change.  From oatmeal, to fruit smoothies, to caramel-mocha beverages, to frozen strawberry lemonade, McDonald’s is one of the most innovative and experimental companies out there.  This Spring they’ll be testing flatbread sandwiches and “garden” snack wraps.  As a representative put it: “Change is a part of our business, to keep up with customer demands, and there have been a lot of changes.”  Understanding the importance of change has made it the nation’s best performing restaurant during this economic downturn.  They’ve posted 30 straight quarters of same-store increases.  In the old days, McDonald’s focused on it’s core customers with the same items.  But today, they’ve responded on a number of different fronts with lower budget items, healthier choices, and more.

And food isn’t all.  They’re experimenting with being open 24 hours, remodeling thousands of stores, and offering free Wi-Fi.  In some cases, there have been so many changes, they’ve had to advertise that they’re still in the Quarter Pounder and Big Mac business.

What do changes at a fast food restaurant mean to you?

First, when customers change, you need to respond. Customers, donors, and supporters are fickle, and organizations who learn to be nimble will be successful.  The rest of the organizations, well…

Second, the culture drives trends, styles, and new ideas, and that’s nothing to be afraid of.
That’s why we need to be aware of the world around us.  Are you watching the trends and considering how it applies to you?  It’s not about chasing relevance, it’s about seeing where the culture is going.  As hockey great Wayne Gretsky put his success, “I don’t skate to where the puck is, I skate to where it’s going.”

Finally, invest in change. Make it a core part of your business, church, or non-profit organization.  Your employee training, company policies, strategy, and vision, all need to figure change into the equation.

The world is changing whether you like it or not, or whether you’re ready or not.  Get used to it or get ready to be a has-been.

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  1. Good stuff! Our community is fairly rural, with only 12,000 residents in a county of 40,000. The nearest major markets (Kansas City, Little Rock, and St. Louis) are a few hours away. And yet, our McDonalds out-performs ALL McDonalds in a several hundred mile radius. It is unbelievable their success. The Burger King next door is a ghost town in comparison.

    The secret here has little to do with food choices, and much of what you referenced today. It has EVERYTHING to do with relationships, and community participation. This McDonalds supports every single youth sports league, and distributes free food just for showing up in your uniform after a game. Coaches get free McDonalds food coupons to pass out for good performances. Even the local schools distribute “Terrific Kids” awards from our friends from the Golden Arches. Local school events, like fundraisers, pep rallies, and even dances, are held AT McDonalds. Kids are groomed from the earliest of ages to associate a “positive, fun experience” with McDonalds. There is a single individual who is the champion for this effort, and is known on first name basis with almost this entire community. She obviously gets it.

    My own kids bought in completely. They don’t even like hamburgers, but they LOVE McDonalds.

    If McDonalds nationally is doing a good job of food selections, changing to meet current demands, great. But to succeed locally, NOTHING will ever beat nurturing relationships with the people you serve.

  2. McDonalds also is quick to drop a change that doesn’t produce the expected results. When I was a kid, I remember being disappointed they had pulled a strawberry shortcake dessert from their menu. Turns out not everyone thought it was as good as I did. Probably their biggest game-changer was breakfast.

  3. McD’s biggest challenge is Ronald MacDonald; they did such a great job of branding themselves as the kids meal place (complete w/playgrounds) that they began losing customers to fast food establishments that emphasized adult menus. They can’t eliminate Ronald entirely but have been cutting waaaaay back on the kiddie image, going so far as to remove most of their existing playgrounds. Perhaps their most successful move back into the adult market has been w/their new coffees; they’re quite good & much more reasonably priced than Starbuck’s.

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