Posted by: carolbcarolb | May 6, 2012

An embarassing Twitter lesson.

Earlier this year, McDonalds launched a paid placement Twitter campaign with the hashtag #meet the farmers. Clicking on the hashtag took you to videos of some of their farmers growing “real food, born of the earth.” Their intent was to encourage people to think “healthy” when they thought of McDonald’s.

Later that day McDs moved the conversation to #McDStories and everything turned south, with thousands of people tweeting about horrible things people have seen at McDs and other bashing of the fast food chain. This lasted about two hours until McDs pulled the hashtag.

“Walk up to any random person in the U.S. (or world for that matter) and say, ‘Did you know that McDonald’s uses farm-fresh meats?’ and they would probably laugh at you and call you nuts,” says Jason Falls, from “Whether it’s true or not is irrelevant. McDonald’s in this case had no idea what their true perception in the marketplace was. They didn’t see their brand the way consumers did. So when they tried to portray their brand as something it wasn’t, at least from a perception standpoint, they got dinged.”

John Furnari, Blitz digital marketing, said that the company probably didn’t get the character of many Twitter users. “They were picturing some wholesome American family talking about memorable moments in their lives going as a group to get a burger,” Furnari says. “In truth though, is that your typical Twitter user?”

Was this corporate arrogance, ignorance, wishful thinking, or a case of not doing their research?


  1. How unfortunate! Well, my first reaction to this is that you have to be willing to take the bad with the good once you initiate a public conversation. However, McDonald’s didn’t seem to consider the possibility of things going south, and this situation reinforces the importance of matching your message with the correct media. Unless its communications people have been living in a bubble, McDonald’s has to be somewhat aware that it is not highly regarded among certain populations. This unfortunate incident reflects the dangers of silo thinking in organizations and is shows the importance of considering how your publics will react to your messages.

    The Obama Campaign recently released a number of messages centered on the fictional character “Julia.” The campaign is using Julia as a vehicle to deliver its messaging to women, but when the #julia hashtag was released on Twitter, right wing users began using the hashtag to post anti-Obama messaging.

    While the McDonald’s case shows that a little research could have probably identified that there would be a problem with the hashtag, the Obama case shows that hashtags from any controversial organization or person can blow up in your face.

  2. Given your interest in the Jamie Oliver movement and the healthy side of food, I thought you would find this one interesting! Last week, kids at James John Elementary received a brand new salad bar, courtesy of Whole Foods and HBO. It’s all part of The Great Cafeteria Takeover campaign in which 100 schools in the U.S. will get new salad bar stations and drinking fountains.

    While LAUSD may have a problem with reality TV, apparently PPS doesn’t. During last week’s unveiling, students got to preview a four-part documentary that will run on HBO next week called “Weight of the Nation.” Viewers will learn that obesity leads to five of the top ten causes of death in the U.S.: heart disease, type 2 diabetes, cancer, stroke and kidney disease.

    Whole Kids, a charitable wing of Whole Foods, purchased the salad bars after a $1.5 million fundraising campaign. Eventually, they hope to put ten salad bars in PPS schools and a total of 6,500 salad bars in schools throughout the country.

    For more info:

  3. Rule number one, understand your publics. This is a classic example of a company taking their perception or aspiration of who they want to be and pushing it on their publics. Yes, local, sustainable, and organic are all the rage, but let’s face it, McDonald’s public is clearly not motivated by these things. This isn’t even a result of a lack of research, but more of a blatant disregard for reality. In my professional life, we are often challenged with the conflict of who we actually are and who we may want to be, when positioning ourselves in the marketplace. It is critical to continually remind yourself who your target audience is and what motivates them – this is what should drive your campaigns, not an effort to latch on to the current fad or an attempt to be like everyone else. MickyD’s, – embrace your bad self!!!

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