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McDonald's UK replacing M with ?

By , agencyfaqs! | In | October 15, 2004
Will India also witness similar changes? Vikram Bakshi declines to answer


Global restaurant chain McDonald's is going through a series of drastic changes in the international markets. The most significant of these is the company's decision to drop its famous golden arches logo in the UK from today. Other important developments include introducing health food such as salad and fruits in its otherwise high fat-containing menu, and also reducing the food servings.

Essentially, McDonald's is serious about changing its image from a food-chain of obesity-inducing junk foods into a respectable new age health-oriented global restaurant. The trigger for the change has been warnings of an obesity crisis from governments of developed nations; growing public awareness of the high-fat, high-salt nature of a fast-food diet; and the consequent squeeze on the company's bottom-line.

The golden arches logo - which is easily one of the world's most recognisable images, probably only behind Coca-Cola and the crucifix as the best known symbols in the world - is being replaced with a large yellow question mark.

Will McDonald's Indian operations also witness similar changes? When agencyfaqs! Put in its question across to the McDonald's India office, Vikram Bakshi, the head honcho at McDonald's India, declined to make any comments. Irrespective of whether the company will introduce changes in its logo and menu in India, it's a fact that the issue of obesity - especially among children in McDonald's target group - is a global phenomenon, and India is not an exception to this rule. Surely, many existing and prospective McCustomers would warm up to the thought of the restaurant chain serving a 'happy and healthy' meal.

In India, where heart attacks kill millions every year, there have been stray demands that branded junk food companies carry mandatory statutory warnings about associated health hazards - similar to the ones carried by cigarette/tobacco manufacturing companies. Even the junk foods category has seen its share of controversies; the usage of monosodium glutamate (commonly called ajinomoto) over acceptable limits had landed Kentucky Fried Chicken into serious problems a couple of years back.

In the UK, meanwhile, the golden arches logo is being ditched purely because of health concerns that patrons have shown. The two-week campaign, called Change, will contain the line: "McDonald's. But not as you know it", with a yellow question mark replacing the famous M arches.

A bigger issue - assuming the question mark is only a temporary measure to arouse curiosity - is what will happen next? Will '?' serve as a stepping-stone to a brand new logo, or will the golden arches be revived? And if the arches are indeed brought back, will the hiatus mean that they are 'damaged goods'?

Marketers will vouch for the fact that surely, it takes a lot of courage to ditch one of the world's most recognisable images. In McDonald's case, it was possibly courage mixed with a generous dose of desperation.

McDonald's patrons are reportedly disturbed by films such as 'Super Size Me', which documents the disastrous damage done to the film's director Morgan Spurlock's health after a month spent eating nothing but McDonald's fare. For the record, the film has been a box-office hit in the UK.

Sales at McDonald's UK outlets had plunged dramatically last year as concerns mounted over the country's obesity problems. The UK adverts will feature close-ups of McDonald's new healthy options such as salads and fruit. The measures follow the group's recent announcement that it was reducing the size of food portions at its restaurants. Booklets detailing new menu items will also be sent to 17 million households in Britain.

History is not particularly kind about corporate makeovers as British Airways (with their abstract tailfins) or British Telecom (with its multi-coloured globe) have discovered to their cost. But then, the UK market has also seen successful transitions such as Channel 5's logo change to Five. In part, at least, this was due to the rebranding devised by TBWA, the ad agency behind French Connection's hugely successful FCUK campaign. In the case of Channel 5, they deliberately drew a line under the past while retaining brand loyalty.

Essentially, there is no one golden rule to successfully change a logo. There must be a solid logic to it, and it's important that the public does not feel that it is being manipulated.

© 2004 agencyfaqs!

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