In an effort to stop their worst slump in decades, McDonalds hired a new CEO at the beginning of March. Unlike his predecessor, who knew that McDonalds had a perception issue but chose to pursue a strategy which attempted to convince customers that their impressions of the company and its Big Macs and McNuggets were wrong, this new guy realizes that in order to change perceptions, McDonalds actually has to change.
What McDonalds really needs to do is appeal to millennial tastes. Millennials represent one-third of the total U.S. population and command a huge amount of buying power. Increasingly, younger diners are seeking out fresher, healthier food and chains that offer customizable menu options for little more than the price of a combo meal. The percentage of people age 19 to 21 in the U.S. who visited McDonald’s monthly has fallen by 12.9 percentage points since the beginning of 2011, according to Technomic, while the percentage of customers age 22 to 37 visiting monthly during that period has been flat. Part of this problem is that the millennial generation has an abundance of choice in the market, and they’re picky with their loyalty.
McDonalds recently announced they are launching a clothing line. While well intended, I don’t think that is the most effective way to reach Gen Y – it is McDonalds once again trying to change consumers’s perceptions without actually changing. What McDonalds needs to do is completely overhaul their menu and being using fresher, healthier ingredients because millennials are currently passing up the Big Macs for more wholesome options like Chipotle and Panera. These restaurants have also worked to cultivate images of social responsibility that appeals to many young people, such as by offering organic ingredients and pork from “naturally raised” pigs.
Their March announcement that within the next two year they will stop sourcing chickens raised with antibiotics is a great first step, but MacDons still has a ways to go to re-brand and reintroduce themselves to millennials.