Memo to McDonald's: Supersize Your Cause Marketing

Grimace_1The news from Adage.com is that McDonald's is sweating grease over the movie Fast Food Nation, which will be in theaters later this year.  The movie takes its name from the best-selling book.  I haven't read it, but I've heard you shouldn't read it before dinner, unless you're dieting.

To combat the negative press the movie will certainly generate for the Golden Arches

McDonald's will likely focus on moves it has already made. In the past two years it has rolled out more-healthful offerings like salads, milk and apple slices to offset its more indulgent fare, but it has also invested heavily in public relations platforms focused on healthful lifestyles and activity.

The fast-feeder set a global advisory council on balanced active lifestyles and turned clown icon Ronald McDonald into a fitness ambassador. In addition, the chain put nutrition information on packaging and hosted a quality symposium and Internet campaign to tout and "bust" myths about its food quality.

This is all great, but where's the cause marketing?  McDonald's hasn't co-branded with a nonprofit for some time, choosing to focus instead on the Ronald McDonald House.  But now might be a good time to let someone else do the talking.  Let me explain.

Working with say the Boys & Girls Clubs of America, McDonald's could Goactivedonate a percentage of sales on every "Go Active Happy Meal" to fund kid-friendly exercise and nutrition programs at local clubs.  I'm sure the folks at Boys & Girls would be happy to say some very nice (and true) things about McDonald's commitment to getting kids to practice healthy habits.  McDonald's could build a whole advertising campaign around this credible testimony.

A good local program for McDonald's here in Boston would be Halloween Town.  The two-day event should draw 20,000 families the weekend before Halloween.  McDonald's could have their own "Healthy Halloween" zone with samples of all their healthful products.  Imagine how surprised (and relieved) parents would be to see all those healthy foods and snacks on the eve of the junk-food holiday!

Of course, there are alternatives.  McDonald's could bring back "Grimace" and launch "Purple and Fat: I'm Lovin' It!"

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