The next visit to the grandparents is coming up – a 3-hour drive away. Some people think directly about the lack of legroom, others about their favorite road trip playlist. But both types of people are probably equally looking forward to the stop at the rest stop. Because if there’s one thing that goes along with long road trips, it’s the self-imposed permission to eat delicious, unhealthy food… at fast-food favorite McDonalds.
No matter how old you are, this feast causes anticipation even after many years – and it’s usually not about the food itself. Because let’s be honest: A cheeseburger is eaten faster than it’s prepared. Rather, it’s the experience of being there. The memories from your own childhood and that one saying that rings around in your head in every language, in every country and from every person with the same melody: Bah dah dah dah – I love it!
A fast-food chain from America has indeed managed to plant images, emotions and even melodies in people’s minds and connect them as a result. How have they managed to do this? To find out, it’s first worth looking at the past, at the birth of the red-yellow, round-curved M’s.
A golden M conquers the world: How two brothers turned a fast food chain into an empire
As early as 1948, brothers Richard and Maurice McDonalds opened a self-service fast-food restaurant and gave it their own name. Ten years later, in 1958, the branding followed, which is still unmistakable today: the golden M. Since then, it has sprouted from every corner, spreading across cities and the countryside and reaching a total of 119 countries. The company now has over 38,700 stores worldwide and, according to analyses by Galileo 60 million guests every day. The world’s largest fast-food empire pursued a precise strategy during internationalization, with which they laid the cornerstone of their storytelling: haptic, visual and taste sameness!
Storytelling in product design: Whether Greece, Australia or Mexico – you can rely on your Big Mac
At the start of Inflation 2022, a newly chosen price yardstick made the rounds: the humorously chosen pickle index, which was supposed to measure how expensive life was then and is now. In fact, there was a similarly unusual measurement value in the past, launched by a business magazine in 1986, which put the world’s most famous burger at the center of the calculation: The Big Mac Index! The indicator compared the purchasing power of different currencies based on the price of the popular burger in the respective countries. For such a comparison to be possible in the first place, it must be produced and sold identically in all the places included – and it is.
But the most popular double burger is not alone in this. McDonalds branches all over the world are more alike than almost any other chain. Even the range of products differs only minimally. The taste of the “best sellers” such as hamburgers, cheeseburgers, Big Macs and chicken nuggets are even completely identical. Likewise, the appearance of the classic McDonalds products is standardized, so that visually there is always an automatic recognition – whether in Greece, Australia or Mexico. So what do guests look for when they go to McDonalds after a few days of “strange” cuisine abroad? After the same feeling (and taste) of childhood, consistency, travel, rest stops, and the pleasure of indulging in something today.
The pleasure as a happy ending: TV storytelling relies on humor, sympathy and authenticity
When it comes to visual storytelling, McDonalds has also always followed a concept. The brand always has its target group in its sights and communicates its USP authentically and humorously: the indulgence! The protagonists of their commercials are “normal people” – people with whom we can identify. Not typical models from glossy magazines, but the family man from the neighborhood who quickly drives through the McDrive after work. Or the two friends at the zoo, yelling with the monkey and not taking themselves too seriously. Always moments are depicted that are either in a family or friendship context.
The link to childhood memories, shared trips and the feeling of “eating like home” is thus also communicated in marketing terms by depicting typical everyday situations. Each commercial follows the narrative of not being able to resist the pleasure of McDonald’s products. The father can’t manage to drive the fries home, as his craving for the juicy potato sticks wins out. The two boys at the zoo just roar so loudly because they are so excited about their burgers and then bite into them with relish. The world-famous McDonalds jingle always follows as an underscore to the happy ending – biting into one of the delicious products – and reinforces the visually created emotion of culinary delight.