Marketing 101 from McDonald’s

You hear the word “McDonald’s” and where does your mind wander to? Do you start to drool over a Quarter Pounder with cheese? Maybe you begin to smell their fries, fresh out of the fryer? Maybe you begin to think about their successful marketing campaigns and how you can apply their ideas to your business?

If you thought the latter, then congratulations: You are a true entrepreneur or small business owner!

Don’t worry if your mind didn’t go to the business side of McDonald’s; I’d be lying if I said a chocolate shake didn’t sound tasty right now. But you can use their business principles to fuel your growing small business by following some of their marketing strategies.

Create an iconic logo to make it easy for customers to easily recognize your brand. The logo colors you choose for your company, as well as the logo you’ll be using, are crucial to branding. Remember, colors have the ability to bring out emotions in people, and that could potentially turn away or bring in traffic. It’s also important to take into account what color combinations may say; for example, red and green may make people associate your brand with Christmas and will assume that’s all you do. Or, they’ll get lost in their thoughts about childhood Christmases and will forget about your company.

Your logo should be something that will easily attract and hold someone’s attention. This is especially true for stores in downtown areas with a lot of drive-by traffic. Your store’s name can be as cutesy and sweet as you want, but unless someone can read it and comprehend it quickly, it won’t matter. You want something that people can see and remember instantly.

Take a look at Quality Logo Products. In addition to having the full name of the company spelled out, we also have a short ‘QLP’ that makes it easy for people to instantly recognize (and hopefully order promotional products, but that’s neither here nor there).

Long Version (complete with Bubba and slogan)

Short & Sweet Version

If you run multiple store locations, then keep everything consistent. This not only applies to policies (return policies should be uniform and not vary from one location to the next), but also to décor. Your locations may not benefit from a ‘variety is the spice of life’ attitude, so it’s probably best to avoid using a different theme at each one. Customers enjoy walking in and knowing what to expect. Deliver a consistently high-quality product and service, and you’ll be sure to keep them coming back for more!

Offer a wide variety of products in order to maximize your customer target. McDonald’s has at least one menu item for everyone to take the edge off of hunger for a few hours. While some may argue that they’re steering too far away from their intended purpose (hamburgers, shakes, fries), others could say they’re just maximizing their reach (fruit smoothies, salads, etc.).

Everyone’s smiling, must be the beginning of the vacation…

A family of four could stop there for lunch and everyone could find something to eat. Dad could get a Big Mac, Mom gets a Caesar Salad, Tommy could get a Quarter Pounder with cheese and fries, and little Susie could get a Happy Meal (complete with a fairy princess toy). You won’t please everyone all the time, but you should aim to please some people part of the time.

Your industry will determine which products you should carry. Maybe you’re carrying products or services in a variety of prices in order to attract people, or maybe it’s the products themselves. The products with the fewest options will be at the bottom of the pricing scale, while the products with all the bells and whistles will be at the higher end of the scale. Customers can fit into one of these areas and find exactly what they’re looking for, and at the price they want.

McDonald’s has decades of experience tinkering with what consumers will put up with and what they won’t. Don’t waste your own marketing dollars to repeat their mistakes; steal their successes and make them work for your company!

Are there any other lessons you can pull away from McDonalds’ marketing? Any lessons of theirs that you shouldn’t repeat? Sound off below!

Image Credit to dave_mcmt and

Amy Hoidas

Amy is one of Quality Logo Products’ Community Manager. She is a self-professed newspaper nerd and thoroughly enjoys reading business and financial news and having impromptu discussions about it. Oh yeah, she’s “one of those” people! A true Midwestern girl by nature, she loves riding her bike, photography, and the Chicago Cubs. You can also connect with Amy on


  1. Eric

    I’m not a coffee drinker, so I can’t speak either way when it comes to the “McCafe,” but I firmly believe they made big headway when they finally figured out how to market a line of salads. The salad wasn’t a new item to a McDonald’s menu, however, before the line of premium salads we’ve now, they struggled. Quite a bit. The most awkward concept came when they offered salads in a cup. Literally. Customers were enouraged to put the dressing in, shake the living heck out of the thing, and disperse dressing that way. Long story short…they never took off.

    Truth be told, I don’t like the regular menu at McDonald’s, and – if it weren’t for the salads – I wouldn’t eat there, period. Smart move to keep them from losing business from the healthily-eating crowd.

    • Amy Swanson

      I totally remember those ‘salad cup’ things!! I personally really like them, but I’m sure those salad cups were expensive to buy the special plastic lids and it was before the whole ‘health craze’, so I bet they weren’t profitable at the time. I’d be curious if they brought them back if they’d get a better reception. Hmm… perhaps a trip up to their Oak Brook HQ is in order 😉

      Offer a little bit of something to everyone and you’ll keep everyone happy.

      Thanks for reading, Eric 🙂

  2. Kelsey

    Great tips Amy! It seems Mcdonalds really has their stuff together. I like what you said about keeping it consistent. Although I know a lot of different towns have different themes in their Mcdonalds, they always have little things that stay consistent so that you are familiar with where you are. I think that the different themes keep it interesting, but I do think it is important to still feel like you’re where you want to be when you get there! Thanks for making me want a chocolate shake… 🙂

    • Amy Swanson

      Haha, seriously after writing this post I stopped on the way home for a chocolate shake. And it was dee-licious 😀

      I’m amazed at how different McDonald’s look inside now. The one by my house is all contemporary and has TVs showing the latest financial news, whereas the Mickey D’s by my grandparents looks straight out of the 1980s. They’re fortunate they’re so well-known that just having those golden arches is all that’s needed to reassure people that a Big Mac here will taste just like the one back home. However, not every company has that luxury and needs to be consistent with their product, their message, and their decor.

      So glad you liked the post, Kelsey! Thanks for the read and comment!!

      • Eric

        Is it weird to say that I actually like stumbling into a – for lack of a better term – ‘vintage’ McDonald’s? They only updated the one in my hometown within the past couple years. Prior to that? Straight out of the 80’s.

        Also…a chocolate shakes sounds crazy delicious right about now. Agreed.

        • Amy Swanson

          Majority of my family lives in eastern and central Iowa, so about 90% of the McDonald’s we stop at while traveling to them are straight out of the 80’s. No TVs, no dark wood accents, just red and yellow vinyl cushioned plastic booths. You hit the nail on the head, they are in fact “Vintage” McDonald’s!

          • Eric

            Well, I’m dating myself, now…McDonald’s locations now have TVs?!?! Officially getting older, now, for sure.

  3. Mandy Kilinskis

    I think that McDonald’s has done an amazing job with varying their product offering in response to changing tastes. They’ve kept their core products of Big Macs and fries, but added salads and the McCafé line. I’ll still go to Starbucks before McDonald’s, but it was smart of them to recognize how in-demand the high-end coffee products are now.

    Excellent post, Amy!

    • amy

      Thanks Mandy!

      I have yet to try McDonald’s coffee, I don’t know if they still do the ‘free coffee Mondays’ or not but sadly that wasn’t enough to draw me in. In their defense though, anyone I know who’s tried it though tells me they drink it all the time though, so I’m curious. It’s on my ‘bucket list’ 😉

      They’re a great example of a company that hasn’t gone too far from their core products in order to attract new customers. I’m amazed that when I’m traveling I can stop there for any meal and find something to eat. I can’t do that with every restaurant, heck… I can’t even do that at home!

  4. Amanda

    Amy, great post! We eat McDonald’s somewhat regularly whether for breakfast, dinner, or a snack. We like the food itself, the price, and the convenience. Plus, the one by us rarely messes up your order, and the food is always hot, unlike the BK we had (that went out of business)! I think you’re right on target–McDonald’s knows what they’re doing!! I will never forget the professor that asked us, “Who can make a better burger the Mickey D’s?” Most of the class raised their hands, and the professor said, “Ok, why aren’t you all making billions of dollars then?!?!” Makes sense…it’s NOT THE BEST burger out there..but with their prices, marketing, availability, etc. It sure is making more profit than most. 😉

    • amy

      I probably eat there once a week for one meal or another for the same reasons as you guys! They’re certainly doing something right 😉 It’s not just their Big Macs that have a special sauce, their company as a whole has a special sauce that’s working for them.

      Thanks so much for the comment, Amanda!

  5. Bret Bonnet

    Go QLP Logo go!

    • amy

      It’s an awesome example, plus Bubba is just so cute that any excuse to feature him in a blog is a must 😉

  6. Rachel

    Great post, Amy! I especially liked your point about a business’s logo, as I think that’s more important than a lot of people realize. Having some kind of graphic or design that will instantly remind your customers of your product is really essential to a successful brand image — as long as you’ve developed a positive connotation for that logo, anyway. 😉 And McDonald’s is an excellent example of the power of a recognizable logo, for sure.

    • Amy Swanson

      It always surprises me that companies have like three or four different logos that they use. They’re similar, but not the same. It makes it rather confusing for consumers. I always assume that they’re updating and changing their logo and instead I’ll see another “version” of it next week. Sorry for the rant, this is a major pet peeve of mine. Find one that works and stick with it. I hate flip floppers!!

      Thank you so much for reading and for your awesome comment! I’m glad you enjoyed it 🙂

  7. Jill Tooley

    McDonald’s knows what they’re doing! They’ve been around so long that it’s more plausible for them to switch up their logo, change their locations’ decor, and etc whenever it suits them, but it’s more difficult for startups and small businesses to do that. And I doubt they would be as big as they are today if they hadn’t stayed consistent for all of those years! Just like any successful company, you have to build a strong foundation and work your way up to “giant” status. You can’t simply declare yourself a winner and expect things to go your way!

    I don’t eat at McD’s, except for the occasional shake or order of fries, but I’ll admit that their menu caters to everyone. Families flock there because they’re getting value and variety, which is important in a shitty economy. This chain will be around until the apocalypse, I’d imagine…

    Great post, Amy! 🙂

    • amy

      Excellent point about smaller companies avoiding switching up their logo too often. It gives off a “under new management” vibe that could turn away customers fearing instability with your brand. Find something you like and stick with it. When you’ve been around for 50+ years and have the klout that McDonald’s has, then you can switch it up any time you want.

      Great point, Jill! Thanks!!

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