Marketing & Branding

McDonald’s Gets a Brand Image Overhaul: Will Customers Start Lovin’ It?

Remember the last time you ate at McDonald’s? I don’t. And I’m not talking about hitting up the drive-thru at 2 a.m.—I mean physically walking in, ordering, sitting down, and enjoying a meal. In all honesty, I can’t remember doing so in the last few years, and the fact that more and more people are sharing that sentiment probably doesn’t sit too well with the powers that be at the house that Ronald built. So, America’s favorite Happy Meal pushers have decided to bring their monolithic brand into the now. McDonald’s is finally getting an image overhaul!

Mmmm…

By 2015, McDonald’s plans to have up to 14,000 of its U.S. locations redesigned to provide a more relaxed and inviting environment for customers, says a recent article from USA Today. It’s a long-term project that will cost the brand upwards of $1 billion. The goal, of course, is to move away from the get-‘em-their-food-and-get-‘em-out style of customer service in favor of something more in tune with what upscale competitors currently offer.

The specifics of the redesign are actually fairly impressive; this isn’t just a new coat of paint we’re talking about. From the outside in, get ready to experience a whole new McD’s. Those bright red roofs that direct our attention away from traffic every time we pass by will now feature a more contemporary design; they’ll also be adorned with horizontal half-arches as part of the brand’s new motif. Inside, customers will find several new reasons to stay and relax: finished wood tables instead of the fiberglass originals; flat-screen TVs; lounge chairs; muted color-schemes to replace the lurid reds and yellows. In short, it’s a whole new look, and one that McDonald’s undoubtedly believes will help them compete with classier fast-food chains. The popularity of brands like Panera and Starbucks is the obvious inspiration for moving ahead with the overhaul.

I’ll tell you one thing: if McDonald’s offered the kind of casual yet comfortable atmosphere that those classier eateries currently provide customers, I’d be more apt to sit down and stay for a bit. Of course, the next question would be as to whether or not their food will see any improvement over the next few years. Luckily, the company says that they’re planning to make enhancements in that regard as well: “McDonald’s…will continue expanding its food and beverage menu, with plans to add even more upscale munchies. The chain no longer wants to rush you in and out. Now it wants you to stick around and tap into free Wi-Fi service as you sip a cappuccino or smoothie while having a Snack Wrap.”

Sounds to me like someone is vying for the Starbucks and Caribou Coffee crowd. So, if nothing else, McD’s gets props for its ambition! To be honest, I think they’ll see some success with this whole ordeal. When passersby start seeing these newly modeled stores during their lunch break, it’s hard to imagine curiosity not getting the better of them. They’ll tell their friends, those friends will tell others, and so on and so forth. In short, the McDonald’s reign will likely continue well into the 21st century. It’s a wise move. Then again, an even wiser move would have been to simply make the McRib a permanent menu item.