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Commentary by Jonah Bloom

Are McDonald's Employees Really 'Lovin' It'?

Staff Relations Is a Crucial Component of Marketing

By Published on .

As the burger burghers of McDonald's assemble in Munich to unveil the details of their new global marketing push, they'd do well to consider that what
Jonah Bloom, executive editor of Advertising Age.
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they tell the world's consumers won't make a jot of difference if they don't do and say the right things to their own staff.

It was no use trying to convince us that McDonald's wanted us to smile when the crew that served us made us feel as welcome as smokers at an asthmatics retreat. Likewise, convincing the patrons that they or the McDonald's staff are "lovin' it" (can this really be the best tagline the McAgencies could come up with?) is going to require employees to look and feel more engaged than they do now.

An unsexy marketing tool
Employee communications is still the most underutilized of the marketing communications tools. Perhaps it's because it sounds about as sexy as tidying a sock drawer. But before you return to your paper clip model of Cruz Bustamante, consider what employee communications might do for your corporation.

Here are the results of some recent studies, shared by Chris Hannegan of Edelman's employee-engagement practice. Research from Hay Group, for example, found that corporations on Fortune's Most Admired Companies list increased stock appreciation 50% over their peers after instituting employee measures. Likewise, in a Watson Wyatt study, the share performance of companies with high employee trust levels outperformed companies with low trust levels by 186%.

Revenue to be gained
What might this mean for marketing services companies? All have shops operating in the employee communications arena and are, after all, experts in engaging audiences. Consultant Jim Haudan of Root Learning estimates the potential market for employee-engagement services to be in the region of $6 billion. That's a lot of revenue opportunities, to say nothing of the potential for making other marketing programs more effective by ensuring employees feel capable of delivering the big brand promises made to customers.

Lies and statistics? Perhaps. But there are numerous real-life examples of successful employee-engagement programs. Frequent fliers on Southwest and JetBlue will tell you the service they receive on these airlines is a big part of why they favor these carriers. Those companies' efforts to put employees at the front and center of everything they do undoubtedly have something to do with the vaunted service their people offer.

Delivery men as brand value
Fed Ex, working with Omnicom's Ketchum, is another champion of employee communications, as is its biggest rival, UPS. Both know their delivery people are their most potent marketing tool, and they work hard to ensure those staff know how to demonstrate their brand values. How good are your FedEx and UPS

people? Those who deliver to Ad Age are smart, courteous and reliable. It is no surprise that the U.S. Postal Service has turned to the Martin Agency's new internal branding consultancy for advice on what it, too, can do to turn its workers into a marketing asset rather than a liability.

If McDonald's wants to look closer to its own fast-food world for evidence of the potential of employee engagement, it will analyze Taco Bell's "Customer Mania" program, launched more than a year ago. Taco Bell executives say the program is a key contributor to its strengthening sales, and parent Yum Brands is looking at rolling out similar programs at its other chains. Have you been to Taco Bell lately? The crews are a lot faster and friendlier than your average McStaffer.

If McDonald's wants to grow its core business, it needs to make sure its staff are "lovin' it" before it tries to convince the rest of us.

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