Where before a marketing staffer would have been focused solely on Happy Meal promotions or African-American marketing, now they will be part of a team working on all marketing programs for one particular quarter.
The goal is to better integrate the burger giant's various programs at the store level, where the chain seeks to create the same look and feel -- and to convey the same messages -- across its 13,000 U.S. outlets.
"We have the same eyes and ears looking at what is going to motivate customers to come into our restaurants," said R.J. Milano, assistant VP-marketing. "This gives us the power to look at the business from a long-term strategic positioning. Ultimately, what the customer will see is more synergy in terms of messages and programs."
McDonald's longtime soft-drink supplier, Coca-Cola Co., made a similar calendar-oriented change to its marketing structure for its Coca-Cola Classic brand earlier this year (AA, April 6); Mr. Milano said the McDonald's changes are not related.
An early example of the new McDonald's approach was the Teenie Beanie Babies promotion launched in late May, the second time the chain has linked with the wildly popular Ty Inc. toys. This year, the chain didn't limit the toys to purchases of Happy Meals but also allowed customers to buy them with the purchase of any food or drink order.
"We were able to take a program that the year prior was really a Happy Meal program and turn it into a total business-driving program," Mr. Milano said.
STAFF TO SHIFT QUARTERS
Mr. Milano said marketing staffers will retain their expertise in various areas and assignments will be shifted regularly so employees will have experience developing programs for all four quarters.
The changes have brought the company's advertising agencies together at planning sessions more frequently, he said. DDB Needham Worldwide and Leo Burnett USA, both Chicago, are the lead agencies for the estimated $600 million account.
SOLVING A MAJOR PROBLEM
Kevin Keller, professor of marketing at Dartmouth University's Tuck School of Business, said the lack of integration in marketing at top companies is "one of the major problems in developing communications programs in the 1990s."
"If this is a way to get better integrated and make sure things fit together better, that's good," he said.
The restructuring comes as the chain continues its months-long search to replace Brad Ball as senior VP-marketing. Mr. Ball left to join Warner Bros.
Alan Feldman, president of McDonald's USA, is overseeing the department on an interim basis.