Branding with Honesty and Integrity
In branding, as in life – honesty may not always be the easiest path – but it is usually the best one to choose. Those brands that build absolute transparency into everything they do and say create a distinct competitive advantage over those who take a more traditional defensive, strategic spin approach.
Time and again I’ve witnessed the power of honesty and transparency to create happy customers and brand fans from those who were cynical, negative or disaffected. In this YouTube clip, global fast food brand McDonalds demonstrate their mastery of brand transparency. The clip is part of a brand campaign from McDonalds Canada called; ‘Our Food, Your Questions’. The campaign responds to questions from customers, even if they’re as prickly as this one: ‘Why does your food look different in the advertising than what is in the store?’. Hosted by Hope Bagozzi, Director of Marketing for McDonalds Canada, I get the sense that the brand has genuinely embraced the spirit of honesty and openness and is enjoying the process.
This brand clip has had more than 5 million views to-date, a level of exposure most brands can only dream-of – and all from answering a tricky question with honesty and openness. The manner in which they executed the campaign is genuinely disarming. Far from apologizing, or resorting to spin, McDonalds Canada chose to draw-open the curtains and expose the process and the reasons behind it to the clear light of day. The talent is likeable and believable – from our attractive and smart host Hope through to the bit players of food photographer, stylist and digital re-toucher. Their approach not only answers the original question; ‘Why does your food look different in the advertising than what is in the store?’, but also reveals McDonald’s thinking and motivations behind the way they present their product to market in a manner that is, well – reasonable.
By taking a burger they purchase in a McDonalds store and putting it side-by-side with a burger they ‘craft from scratch’ and comparing what’s different between the two, it seems the brand is just as interested in seeing the results as we are.
• During the process they explain how the burger from the store was made in about a minute-or-so, where-as the process they go through to shoot a burger for a campaign takes several hours. This provides an important point of clarity – as a customer I am happy to compromise on the aesthetic of a perfect burger if it means I can get it fast.
• Also compelling is that all the ingredients the stylist uses for the shoot are ‘the exact same ingredients’ they use in the McDonalds stores (or restaurants as they call them) – ‘The exact same patties, the exact same ketchup and mustard and onions, and the exact same buns’.
• When it comes to post-shoot manipulation their approach is also revealing, ‘the less amount of retouching we do the less perfect it looks, but actually it looks more appetizing and more convincing’.
• Finally we’re shown that; ‘you can definitely see that there’s a size difference. The box that our sandwiches come in keep the sandwiches warm, which creates a bit of a steam effect, and it does make the bun contract a little bit’.
As a viewer we even end-up respecting the craft and effort McDonalds goes to just to communicate the product offering to me as well as they possibly can. As contemporary brand consumers we are super aware of marketing and the potential for brand communications to influence our purchasing behavior through smoke and mirrors. But likewise, we are equally aware of the role of marketing for brands and why it is important to present their wares in the best possible light, and we see those actions as reasonable as long as they are transparent.
Images © McDonald’s Canada
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