Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Can branding hurt you?

This week McDonalds hit the headlines again! McDonalds has an unmistakable brand image. That could be said to be a massive advantage. McDonalds has certainly been able to expand internationally but how is it perceived in other countries? I was intrigued by the experiment they’re making in Japan by NOT using their brand. Their publicity machine says it’s so that customers can taste the taste without the image of McDonalds in their minds. The question is, “What makes McDonalds concerned that their image would have a negative impact on the taste buds of the Japanese?”

I remember the first McDonalds in the UK (bad quality), Geneva (better), Moscow (very ironic it was considered a luxury restaurant when Russian restaurants were so much better), outskirts of Jerusalem (really hate seeing those arches before the rest of the city). What image does McDonalds bring to your mind?

Comparing McDonalds to Coke, I realize that Coke has a very neutral to positive image in my mind, no matter what language or culture. When I think of McDonalds I remember how hard it was for me to initially even associate the word “Restaurant” with the type of food on offer. I also remember the negative publicity in the UK (the longest court case on record) for the debatable ethics of their targeted ads to kids. The movie “Supersize Me” hasn’t much helped either. Perhaps this image has prompted McDonalds to try their Japanese experiment. Will it be the precursor to a brand change? Is this McDonald’s first attempt to associate their brand with quality?

Whatever the upshot of this experiment, it certainly reinforces the need to be aware of the development of the brand image. Too little attention can have an impact decades in the future.

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