The Golden Arches continues to build brand advocacy with Gen Z

My eight-year-old son, like many children, is a great brand ambassador for McDonald’s. Ever since he could talk, he was asking, “can we go to McDonald’s?” My wife and I never encouraged it but, like most things children pester for, you either continue to fight them on it or try to limit it!

He knows exactly what he wants. It’s not just any burger, it’s specifically McDonald’s. Lately, his passion for the brand has evolved to defending and attacking its competitors. Every time he sees a Hungry Jacks ad he passionately screams, “I hate you Hungry Jacks – your burgers are not better!”

I laugh and tease him about it but that only makes him even more incensed. “Why do you hate Hungry Jacks so much? What is so special about McDonald’s”, I enquire. Of course, with children the answer is rarely logical and is inevitably, “just because”.

As a brand strategist, this really interests me. The brand is so powerful that children are passionate about it and only it. No substitute will do and the brand can do no wrong.

When he was younger, I put it down to the toys that come with the meals. McDonald’s always seem to understand the trends and are one step ahead of the others. The little boxes are also cleverly crafted to say ‘just for kids’. The store design with bright colours, playgrounds and of course, those golden arches are like a magnet, especially for the young kids. They all work together to build a distinctive brand experience. While he has outgrown some of this, McDonald’s still represents a special place for him.

McDonald’s is a benchmark of how to control both the product and the experience to ensure the brand delivers every time. My son has always insisted that McDonald’s burgers, chips and even nuggets are like nothing else. The employees also seem to have better training and understand how to deliver the brand. You really notice the difference when you are overseas,especially in non-Western countries – they still behave like a McDonald’s brand ambassador.

It is this commitment to consistency that makes the difference and makes McDonald’s so strong as a brand. Wherever you go, here and overseas, McDonald’s is the same (with minor variations on menu items) – you get what you expect.

Then, I realise where his distrust and anger towards Hungry Jacks began. One day, I couldn’t find a McDonald’s. I finally convinced him to try Hungry Jacks. “It’s the same,” I said. Apparently not! The burger was ‘dry and tasteless’, the toy was ‘stupid’ and his treat was ruined and so was our day!  He has never forgotten or forgiven the brand and goes out of his way to convince his friends to feel the same way.

Maybe we were unlucky and got them on a bad day, but it just highlights for me, as with any product or service, the importance of ensuring your brand delivers consistently.

Making sure your brand delivers every time is always important – especially for a child. They have high expectations for their treat (as do we, as parents).

Every sale earned must be taken as an opportunity to delight. You can’t rely on second chances.

Michael Hughes
Director of Brand Strategy

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