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The fast-food market is saturated, its growth rate has sputtered and Wall Street pressure on marketers to meet earnings targets is unrelenting in a slowing economy. So is McDonald's Corp.'s program to double sales in five years achievable? Maybe not. But it is indisputably a great start.

The "Blueprint to Double the U.S. Business" is an admission of sorts by the burger titan that it had lost focus on the brand. A plethora of premiums, prizes, in-store signs and a dizzying array of product sizes and packages overwhelms the McDonald's reason for being-the food. In fact, an internal audit tallied an average of 33 promotional messages per store.

The new McDonald's blueprint peels back the layers and wisely returns the chain to its essence, while neatly moving forward with technology innovations to speed service and convenience.

Menu variety will still exist, but the major experimentation will come under the umbrellas of the Diner in McDonald's and other concepts. That allows the primary brand to stay true to its menu, with additions rotated through the McDonald's New Tastes menu. Instead of drawing in fickle consumers with limited time promotions tied to movies and entertainment properties, McDonald's will create loyalty to its brand through a McRewards program, and further hone its relationship with consumers via a database.

It's significant that the chain's National Leadership Team, representing multiple internal disciplines, is pitching in on the plan. That indicates the company is serious about putting the brand front and center throughout its total communications and that it's united internally on this plan. The test will be whether the fast-feeder can hold on to the courage of its long-term convictions in the face of short-term expectations from the investors that populate McDonaldland. %

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