Case Study: How McDonald’s Canada built trust and reputation with the help of social media

mcdonalds_ofyqOne of the largest fast food chains in the country, McDonald’s Canada decided to face myths and misconceptions about the brand head on and gave the public a backstage pass on how things work in the company. In the spring of 2012, McDonald’s Canada launched a digital platform called “Our Food. Your Questions.” giving people a chance to ask the company anything about its food.


The first McDonald’s Canada opened its doors in Richmond, British Columbia in 1967. Today,2.5 million people visit the restaurants across the country every day.


As described by Marketing magazine, being one of the country’s largest fast food chains, McDonald’s Canada was convinced there were certain myths and misconceptions surrounding its packaging, product launches, the quality of its food and the way in which that food was prepared. Research found that a lot of these myths were seeded and growing within the social space. For that reason McDonald’s decided to direct a bold campaign to face these misconceptions head on and use transparency to put any negative rumours to rest. As Karin Campbell, senior manager of external communications at McDonald’s Canada explained to Ad Age: “We certainly could see pervasive myths out there, so we decided to take on those myths head on and just clarify some of the info by developing a platform.”

“Our Food. Your Questions.” launched in the spring of 2012 with a YouTube video directing visitors to a dedicated website where they could submit questions about the brand by logging in through their Twitter or Facebook account. The questions on the site range from conspiracy theories about food additives, to why the food looks so different from their advertising. And not only tough questions like: “How is it that a McDonald’s burger does not rot?” or “Does your Egg McMuffin use real eggs? They look too perfect,” have been answered. McDonald’s has also released a series of videos that have gone viral. One of the most memorable and talked about clips, as stated in Marketing magazine, features Hope Bagozzi, creative and national marketing director at McDonald’s Canada, explaining why a hamburger looks different in advertising than it does when purchased from the restaurant and to date it has attracted more than eight million views on YouTube.

Behind the scenes at a McDonald’s photo shoot

Source: McDonald’s Canada, 2012

Even though McDonald’s had a fairly strong social media presence before “Our Food. Your Questions.” through its Twitter and Facebook accounts, Marketing magazine outlined that the project was positioned as a responsive rather than proactive approach. A few months later in August, the company promoted the digital project with a four-week “offline” advertising campaign that included a 30-second television commercial, wild postings, video projections on buildings and transit dominations in key markets across Canada.

Results: 20,000 questions answered

By April 2013 the chain had answered 20,000 questions. The “Our Food.Your Questions” part of McDonald’s website had gathered more than two million hits. McDonald’s said visitors are spending an average of four and a half minutes engaging with the site and reading approximately 12 questions.

Case study video:

Source: FAB Awards Channel, 2013


Marketing magazine has argued that as a global company, McDonald’s had the advantage of drawing from campaigns and product launches that have been successful in other markets, when developing the campaign.Experiences to draw on included the 2006 pre-social era rudimentary McDonald’s UK website titled “Make up your own mind,” which was part of an ambitious brand revitalisation, where customer could ask any questions they might have had about the brand. “We’re certainly able to leverage the strengths of a global brand and a global company and pick up the best practices that exist elsewhere,” Bagozzi commented. McDonald’s Canada also benefited from its marketing independence in going for something tailored to the local audience. “We really have a belief in this company that you should be really focused on your customer, and the customer needs in each country can be quite unique and quite different and we want to be relevant to the customers in our marketplace,”Bagozzi added.

By stating that “Our Food. Your Questions” has “redefined transparency” and “made McDonald’s top of mind”,Marketing magazine is really recognizing McDonald’s Canada’s effort in creating an outstanding campaign. On the digital platform, consumers were invited to ask their toughest questions. In exchange, McDonald’s promised to step up and give clear and concise answers. It was a courageous and savvy move that recognizes the importance of creating a kinship with consumers,Alex Sévigny, director of the McMaster-Syracuse Master of Communications Management program told Marketing magazine.“Trust and reputation are becoming a fundamental part of building a brand and maintaining a brand community. The McDonald’s campaign is great in that respect. It’s absolutely brave because it required them to give the public a backstage pass to how things work.”

However, Ad Age argued that McDonald’s Canada’s campaign worked in part because it did not give consumers too many opportunities to trash it and the campaign stayed away from potentially sensitive issues. Stuart Schwartzapfel, VP-audience insights at social-media agency Big Fuel, emphasizes, however, that too much control is not a “better practice”. McDonald’s Canada did not allow users to comment on the YouTube pages, which he said “implies dubious intentions,” as it provides users no space to talk to the brand.

Author: Maarja Gavronski


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