The Story of the McDonald’s

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McDonald’s is known as the fast food chain that sells fries and hamburgers, it is also the world’s second largest restaurant chain after Subway, but what is behind the name McDonald’s? According to the article and video “History of McDonald’s” published by Wiki2 website, “McDonald” is a Scottish and Irish surname, being more specific, “the part ‘mac’ means son, while ‘Donald’ means ruler of the world”. Well, something certain about the meaning is that the brand does lead the world, but there was not one but two rulers, those rulers were Richard and Maurice McDonald, two brothers. Their first success and what people call the first restaurant place of McDonalds was opened in San Bernardino, California. From the opening of the first location in California to the big chain of today, many things happened.

During World War II, they decided to close the restaurant to implement some changes in order to accelerate customer service. In this way, they reduced the menu to just nine dishes where hamburgers with fries stood out because of their rentability and easy preparation. In the blink of an eye, their restaurant became very popular, getting the attention of a lot of people from other states in the United States. Ray Kroc was one of the people who put his eyes on McDonald’s. He worked selling milkshake machines (without much success) when the McDonald brothers ordered him eight milkshakes. Kroc felt he had won the lottery, but he had no idea to what extent. He immediately saw the potential of McDonald’s’ innovative fast-food system. Kroc fell in love with the restaurant and instantly offered to franchise it. The brothers decided to give Ray Kroc a chance (“History of McDonald’s”).

In the period of less than 7 years Ray built more than 90 McDonald’s restaurants, the McDonald’s brothers were still making a fortune with everything that had their name on it, but Ray found a clever strategy to eliminate them from the business. He purchased the land of all future restaurants to be built, and then leased it to his franchisees (“History of McDonald’s”), he ended up negotiating with the brothers for the entire brand for almost $3 million, thus leaving the McDonald’s brothers empty-handed, with no right to future millionaires’ earning. One of those millionaire earnings the brothers missed was the Happy Meals, which were created in 1979 as an answer to the need for a meal only for children. The success of McDonald’s targeting children is based on the advertisement of the Happy Meals and toys, resulting in an epidemic of childhood obesity.

The advertising of the Happy Meals began as a solution to the need for a meal that would make children feel unique, while their parents enjoyed other products included in the brand’s menu. The basic products of the Happy Meal were cheeseburger, French fries, small drink, and a cookie. The experience of feeling unique started with the presentation of the food which since that day has come in a colorful box, size of the food, and finally the toy that came with it. Their popularity of how they sold their food and how they marketed it began to gain importance year after year. “You deserve a break today’’ was for many years the motto of many campaigns of McDonald’s, during one of those campaigns the brand showed a kid as the principal character of the advertisement, the boy was smiling and holding of the Happy Meals’ cheeseburgers, behind him a black background with messages like “Jimmy just knows they are good”, also in the inferior left part the brand shows reasons why its hamburgers were good and how parents trust in McDonald’s, creating the perfect scenario, building a trusty environment between brand-costumer. The brand through the motto positioned itself in people’s minds, as it made them believe that they lived in a busy world, which needed faster food than was prepared at home, and that the best place to go to eat that and take a break was McDonald’s.

The next motto of the brand was “Nobody can do it like McDonald’s can”, but also with the same components; a happy kid holding a hamburger, and behind him words explaining why McDonald’s has all of that success, showing also how many hamburger they sell, in other words, giving that idea of confidence and trust between the brand and the people who consume its products. For many years the brand uses the same black background, and kids as a principal character in their advertisements, but after many years of modifications, and also thanks to the consumer psychology, McDonald’s changed colors and the presentation to the mediums they used to reach people. This is how we came to this advertisement published in the article “What is a Happy Meal?” which is still calling for family time, it shows the girl as the principal reason to be in McDonald’s. Also, the image has a writing section, where the brand shows the price of the product, what is new in the happy meal, and how great is the atmosphere at McDonald’s; giving the idea that there is no better place to be. The brand uses a green color in the inferior part of the image to create the idea of fresh and healthy food/environment. The three sources used in this thread are helpful, because they illustrate the brand’s position of promoting its happy meals through the children’s advertisements.

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Everything was happiness, and the Happy Meal was the perfect product, until the world community began to find the true goal of the advertisement of McDonald’s through their Happy meals. The toys are the real goal, and the reason why the brand sells millions of Happy Meals, but it was not until 1987 that happy meal popularity exploded when McDonald’s first teamed up with Disney. Here is where the toys began to play huge importance. After people began to link toys to McDonalds’ successes; many people began to sue the brand. As it is shown in the article “McDonald’s Is Being Sued by a Father over ‘Illegal’ Marketing of Happy Meals to Children.” , written by Lucy Handley in which it talks about how a father in Canada, who demanded the brand with the argument that the brand would have made him spend a lot of money with his three children, which forced him to go to McDonald’s on repeated occasions to collect all the toys, demonstrating in this way that the brand takes away the authority of parents in many cases. The brand uses an advertising strategy that takes advantage of children: McDonald’s advertising techniques are carefully targeted at children. The bright colors and circus atmosphere encourage children to come in, which is a huge pressure on parents. In this way, children are used as innocent accomplices to this industry.

Parallel to these lawsuits, the brand is also aware that many of these are supported by studies, which show how toys are related when a child chooses a Happy Meal. One of those studies are “The Happy Meal Effect: The Impact of Toy Premiums on Healthy Eating Among Children in Ontario, Canada.”, made by Dr. Erin Hobin, the research shows how the “toy premiums” are an obvious technique of kid’s food marketing by McDonald’s to target children through their toys. One of the research’s goals is to show how children are really attached to those McDonald’s toys, in this article they put toys with healthier Happy Meals, making on this way that kids ignore the regular Happy Meals that the brand sells, showing that children choose toys over food, regardless quality or quantity. One more investigation by Elizabeth Fuller “Happy Meal Ban: No Toys for You”, that has resulted in a city like San Francisco prohibiting the different brands of fast food, that the toys are put together with unhealthy food, thus making these brands improve their products, and the way they are using the toys; so families forget the terrible nutritional contribution that Happy Meals have. Although at the beginning, McDonald’s protested against the measure, eventually the brand ended up committing itself to improving the food, thus lowering calories to less than 600 calories. But was not enough for many people, since many people expressed that this is not for McDonald’s a pure cause, because it is believed that this is only about money.

There is one more factor why people think McDonald’s is doing the modifications to the happy meals, the brand wants to maintain its partnership with brands such as Disney and other brands which make McDonald’s have toy sets, so children can repeatedly go for happy meals and collect them. A research which supports this position, was done by Helen Dixon called “Food Marketing with Movie Character Toys: Effects on Young Children’s Preferences for Unhealthy and Healthier Fast Food Meals.”, The article talks about Movie tie-in premiums (MTIPs) and how big chain restaurants like McDonald’s use that type of premium offer to promote films, but also to target children through the toys as a ‘‘positively reinforced’’. One of the problems here is that a movie means a whole set of toys, which means the whole family going to collect the set before the toys are replaced by others. Also, the article has a study where they use happy meals from McDonald’s, making some healthier than others. The research concluded that no matter what Happy Meal they offered if the food was paired with a toy, children were emotionally forced to choose that food. The three sources chosen for this group show how toys are used to give children a preference for food advertised by the brand over any other food.

McDonalds has always been shown itself as a brand that contributes to good nutrition for children, which has been concerned about staying on the sidelines and has not contributed to obesity. Participating even in debates about obesity, emitting statements like the one made in 2007 through the article ‘Reframing the Obesity Debate: McDonald’s Role may Surprise You.’ which was written by Catherine Adams Vice president of McDonald’s corporation. The author describes the brand as a company that tries to give the best customer service, giving people what they want; like balanced nutrition, showing some nutritional facts to create a trusty message to their audience, healthy and quality food, in this way showing the brand against obesity.

But as always one thing is the theory and another thing is the practice, this is why the brand has been linked to obesity scandals. One more kind of lawsuits that the brand has been involved in, are those that show how the brand is leading the child population to obesity, one of those lawsuits was published in Financial Times Journal by Neil Buckley, the article “McDonald’s Faces First Obesity Lawsuit”, In this article, the author shows the reason why McDonald’s, as the world’s largest hamburger chain, was sued through a class action by Mr. Hirsch, who alleged that the brand was not clear with their clients about their nutritional information. For this reason, two adolescents of 14 and 19 each developed health problems. McDonald’s in this case, says that they do not have responsibility for others’ choices. This lawsuit was one of the first-class actions McDonald’s faced, opening to others the opportunity to think about what they were eating at McDonald’s.

Due to complaints about obesity is that there are so many initiatives and articles acclaiming for an improvement of McDonalds with its products. The article “‘Healthy Happy Meals’ Bill Targets Childhood Obesity.”, written by Bianca Seidman, and published in 2015 in the CBS news. This article addresses the concern of New York state to follow-up the positive example given by California; creating a bill that makes McDonald’s modify the happy meals. The proposal is based on the report given by the city’s health department. Since it is a fact that the caloric content and the low nutritional contribution of the food offered by the brand is affecting the child population, leading them to suffer childhood obesity. The bill wants McDonald’s to lower the caloric content and add healthier products. The three sources used on this theme help to show how the brand from their point of view and the community in general is taking responsibility for childhood obesity.

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