McDonald’s latest commercial: Genius or Tacky?

I was watching the Golden Globes on Sunday night when this ad came on. I will admit that I was drawn to it and couldn’t take my eyes off the screen. However, I do think I was so mesmerized by the ad because of the children singing. As soon as the ad was done my roommate [A health sciences major] said “There’s no way those are all real. McDonald’s would not say “Pray” on one of their signs”. She said exactly what I was thinking: there’s no way McDonald’s would have their employees crawl on a ladder up to their sign in the middle of a flood and write a pray for us type of message – it is both politically incorrect and beside the point when a town is dealing with a tragedy. While that was my main problem with the ad, internet outrage broke out over some of the other imagery that the signs painted.


The commercial provoked strong reactions, with some saying they were moved by it and others saying it was tacky for a company to use tragic events to polish its image. Most of the national criticism of this ad was because the signs featured references to 9/11, the Boston Bombing and the Columbia Space Shuttle disaster which people find insensitive.

Recently McDonald’s has been trying to refresh their brand after falling sales the past two years. They have been focusing on the “lovin it” part of their “I’m loving it” slogan. A previous ad in this series was a cartoon ad in which long standing enemies like Batman and the Joker and Bears/Packer fans become friends and love each other. This new Signs ad was meant to illustrate the role that “beloved” McDonald’s restaurants play in communities. I think that McDonald’s trying to humanize their huge corporation is a good thing but they should not be doing it by capitalizing on tragedies that are still very fresh wounds for many Americans. Regardless of what your personal opinion of the ad is, McDonald’s can chalk it up to a win as they are getting tons of free publicity from it because everyone is arguing about it.

Marketing to Millennials

I am a millennial. We have also been referred to as Generation Y, the We generation, and Echo Boomers. Millennials are the group of Americans born between 1980 and the mid-2000s. We have surpassed the baby boomers to become the largest generation in the U.S., representing one-third of the total U.S. population in 2013. We have distinctly different behaviors, values and attitudes from previous generations. These behaviors, values and attitudes are something that marketers need to pay attention to.


First, millennials are the most educated generation to date. About 61 percent of adult Millennials have attended college, whereas only 46 percent of the Baby Boomers did so. Thus, we are savvier than our baby boomer parents and won’t fall prey to marketing media blitzes. We actively tune out and ignore most traditional advertising. If brands want us to adopt their products/services they need to create relationships with us – relationships that are based upon more than just buying and selling. Millennials have the tendency to think we have the power to make brands succeed or fail, and why wouldn’t we? – just look at the Arab Spring movement. We want to engage with brands – 59% of millennials have “liked” a brand on Facebook and 40% subscribe to some sort of brand email. In order to connect with millennials brands need to create compelling and engaging content.

Second, going along with creating compelling content, brands who want to connect with millennials need to be all over social media. Millennials are a group that highly weights our purchasing decisions on the thoughts and shares of our peers. Twenty-five percent of millennials share online shopping content to our social networks; a rate of nearly four times that of the average user. We also share more content in general — twice as much as the average user. We spend the majority of our time on the internet on Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin, Instagram, and Pinterest. Brands need to be on all of these sites and they need to differentiate the content they put out as well. If I follow a brand on Facebook, Twitter, and Linkedin I do not want to see the same exact post on all three sites. Brands can (and should) use social media to engage with their consumers. They can create great PR for themselves, and avoid major PR disasters simply by tweeting at consumers.


Lastly, millennials are incredibly mobile. According to Nielsen data in the second-quarter 2014, 85% of Millennials aged 18-24 own devices and 86% aged 25-34 own them, an increase from 77% and 80%, respectively, in second-quarter 2013. We have grown up as the internet has and have always had technology at our fingertips. Brands need to be aware of this and connect with us as much on mobile as with all the other platforms. This means, responsive website design, geo-targeting, and swapping out banner ads for mobile ads.

Check out this quiz to see how “millennial” you are

2015 Marketing Resolutions

2014 was a big year for marketing — the desktop computer continued to lose major ground to mobile devices, wearable tech caught on, and crowd sourcing was huge. 2015 is sure to have major gains in the field as well. Here are some of my predictions:

  • Instagram: With over 200 million users this app should be marketing central for any company looking to engage with their customers/clients and most importantly potential customers and clients. Instagram is a fantastic platform to share images of pretty much anything and many companies have not figured that out yet. It is a tool that any small business looking for growth needs to master. I predict that in 2015 we will be seeing a lot more of the promoted pictures popping up in our feed as well as many more companies making the leap to get an Instagram in the first place.


  • Social payments: Here, I’m talking about both one click purchase capability from sites such as Twitter, Facebook, and especially Pinterest but also peer-peer payments like venmo and more recently, Snapcash. While everyone in my peer group is wary of Snapcash I think as long as companies educated the consumers a little better than a 10 second video, payment systems like this could really take off.
  • Geo-fencing: I think geo-fencing and geo-targeting are really cool concepts and I hope they take off in 2015. While getting promotions into the hands of consumers is the top use of this technology it can also be a powerful tool simply for educating people. For instance, I could be the local high school running a fundraiser at the town’s chipotle. I could put a geo-fence around the largest local employer and send a text to everyone there letting them know about the fundraiser. With something like a fundraiser their success depends on awareness so this would be a great tool to educate people about all kinds of things.
  • Content is King: Shout-Out to Drake for drilling it into my head the last four years that Content is king. This is a concept that not all companies know, but more and more have been warming up to the idea and I think in 2015 the number of companies producing good, native content is going to rise at exponential levels. Everyone can have a huge sale or donate a bunch of money to a local shelter to generate some good PR, but not everyone is capable of producing good, engaging content. In this day and age content is one of the few things that companies can use to differentiate themselves from the competition. I predict in the next year companies will seriously step up their game and make creating original content (owned media) a larger part of their marketing budget. The Oreo Super bowl tweet a couple years ago is a brilliant example of this – it was original, it was timely and it was a hit.


What do you think will happen in the world of marketing in 2015?

Black Thu…Friday


Black “Friday” comes earlier and earlier every year. A few years ago stores started opening at midnight, last year many opened at 10pm on Thanksgiving and now this year some stores are going to be open all day on Thanksgiving! This is an alarming trend that we as marketers need to stop perpetuating.

Thanksgiving is a day for families to come together and give thanks for one another. Because it is not a religious holiday, Thanksgiving is often the only holiday that some families get to spend together. I think that if retailers continue to take away the sanctity of Thanksgiving, consumers (not to mention employees) will soon become resentful and in the worst case scenario become disloyal and begin to shop at retailers who support the same Thanksgiving ideals they do instead of shopping at whichever retailer has the best deals.

One company that will not be opening their doors on Thursday is Costco. Their reason being: “Our employees work especially hard during the holiday season, and we simply believe they deserve the opportunity to spend Thanksgiving with their families. Nothing more complicated than that”.  The move has endeared customers to Costco with people like Dave Letterman saying that Costco will be his next job. These retailers are taking a similar approach:


Burlington Coat Factory





T.J. Maxx

Home Depot




The reason that the brick-and-mortar stores are opening earlier and earlier every year is to keep up with the online retailers. Best Buy began putting technology gifts on sale Nov. 20 and Walmart started offering free shipping on the season’s hot gifts as of Nov. 1. I propose that we either need to respect the Thanksgiving Holiday and go back to making Black Friday be a big deal ON Black Friday or we need to get rid of Black Friday and its sense of occasion altogether. I think we are going the way of the latter: according to a recent study by Accenture, 19 percent of Americans report that they’ve already spent between $100 and $500 on holiday shopping—having started as early as September—and 18 percent of consumers now believe the best holiday deals happen before Thanksgiving. I fall into this category – I purchased my Dad’s present back in October. Based upon Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales this year, it will be very interesting to see what retailers decide to do next year – If they switch over to a whole Thanksgiving week of deals or hit Black Friday harder than this year.

Are you #TeamBlackFriday or #TeamShopOnTurkeyDay?

Taco Bell goes Black

emily_gutknecht_marketing Facebook TBell

Last week as part of the launch of its new app, Taco Bell blacked out its social- media channels, including Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and even its website. The only thing these sites had posted was the link to download the app. With the release of this app Taco Bell is the first fast-food chain to offer mobile payment and ordering in the restaurants and in drive-thrus. Users can also select specific ingredients for their food in a way they previously weren’t able to, according to a statement. As of now these social media pages are all still blacked out. The blackout clearly worked because Taco Bell announced that just 24 hours after launch 75 percent of all stores already had processed a mobile order.

This stunt was well done by Taco Bell. As a huge company with a multi-faceted social media presence and millions of followers, something like this was sure to be noticed. The day after the blackout Taco Bell began using sponsored tweets to push people towards their blacked out sites (which is a little deceptive since their point was to not be on social media and instead be on the app, but I rest my case). I think if it were a smaller company nobody would have cared because they wouldn’t have even noticed. I especially like what they did with their Instagram – the announcement took up nine picture slots and they took a little over a day to put it all together, slowly adding one picture at a time so people could piece together the message.


Now that Taco Bell has people’s attention, it’s important to pay attention to what they will do next. People are watching their pages with bated breath waiting to see what will happen so if Taco Bell continues with the blackout it will be a wasted opportunity for them. I do not think it’s a very effective long term strategy to keep everything black because social media is an ever evolving platform and that is constantly growing and Taco Bell needs to keep up with that. They’re pushing it a little bit by leaving the accounts blacked out for six days now because those followers who have not downloaded the app will soon get bored with Taco Bell’s lack of activity on social media.

Now taking bets on when Taco Bell will come back to social media.