Marketer of the Year 2009

McDonald's Moves Beyond Value Menu to Rise Above

Marketer of the Year Runner-up: Listening to Consumers Led Golden Arches to Growth

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Like Walmart, McDonald's, with its menu of inexpensive, comforting items, seemed tailor-made for this recession. But great marketing and focus on product has ensured that the fast feeder hasn't missed any opportunities, even as other burger purveyors have stumbled. Second-quarter same-store sales in the U.S. grew 3.5% and global same-store sales were up 5% when many of the best-performing rivals were flat and the industry was down overall.

of readers recognized the fast feeder for leading the pack in a down sector.
Being associated with a value menu chockablock with popular products isn't the worst thing for hard times, but that's not all McDonald's is about. A bold strategy of highlighting core, higher-margin items, like the Big Mac, Chicken McNuggets and the Quarter Pounder resulted in double-digit sales increases late last year and early this year. By doing this and raising the price on the dollar double cheeseburger, they've been able to shift sales toward higher-ticket items.

They might not be the target of burger ads, but it's moms who decide whether to turn the car into the drive-thru. Appealing to them means one thing: having an array of healthy choices on the menu. That's something McDonald's has taken seriously in recent years, introducing salads, yogurts and apple dippers. CMO Mary Dillon -- herself a mother -- has even established a moms' council and given a group of Moms Quality Correspondents what the company describes as "unprecedented access to the McDonald's system" so they can make sure the ingredients and cooking processes are up to snuff for their kids.

Not long ago, McDonald's, as the burger chain leader, was the poster child for unhealthy fare, perhaps best summed up by its starring role in the 2004 documentary "Super Size Me." While it could have the image of an uncaring corporation poisoning million, it doesn't, thanks largely to the fact that it's zeroed in on the health concerns and offered alternatives to all that fatty fare.

With "I'm Lovin' It," McDonald's has a solid global campaign that's translated well around the world. But the fast feeder, mindful of cultural differences and variations among media habits around the globe, can boast a portfolio of strong market-specific ideas. When launching the Quarter Pounder in Japan, it created an unbranded restaurant that only sold Quarter Pounders, an idea that kicked up a lot of buzz before it was revealed to be a McDonald's. The introduction of the McFlurry to France used TV -- no surprise there -- but the biggest portion was mobile, with games and ringtones that played up the idea of customizing the McFlurry. So credible is the brand in France that it recently earned a spot in the Louvre.

Much of the buzz around McDonald's has to do with those lattes, salads, chicken sandwiches and its forthcoming smoothies, but consider that one of the newest menu items is an Angus burger tipping the scale at one third of a pound and a $4 price tag. It's its first burger launch in eight years and, though the timing isn't great, early indications were that the sandwich is catching on -- a timely reminder that what McDonald's knows is beef.

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