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McDonald’s Integrated Communication Strategy Research Paper

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Updated: Dec 24th, 2020

Introduction

Competition in the fast food industry continues to rise as companies open multiple restaurants across the globe. The demand for fast food amid the working class and the youth has intensified, prompting investors to venture into the business. Companies in this industry require innovating to remain competitive. The rise in the rate of obesity has compelled people to eat low-calorie foods. In return, fast food companies have restructured their marketing strategies to target health-oriented clients.

McDonald’s has gone to the extent of reviewing its menu to include healthy foods. Unfortunately, most customers are not aware of the changes and order junk foods whenever they visit the restaurant. The company requires implementing an integrated communication strategy to assist it to change consumers’ attitude towards its brand and encourage them to alter their dietary habits. This article will discuss the steps that the company can take to formulate and implement a successful integrated communication strategy.

Company Overview

McDonald’s is a multinational fast food corporation, which operates over 35,000 outlets across the globe. The company has establishments in at least 100 countries. Additionally, it has over four million employees and serves at least 70 million clients. According to Gorham, Gibson, and Irlbeck (2016), the corporation covers at least 17% of the United States’ fast food market. McDonald’s provides a standard menu across its subsidiaries, which comprises hamburgers, wraps, Big Mac, chicken nuggets, desserts, chicken sandwiches, beverages, and soft drinks among others.

Moreover, it offers a variety of local menus in the international market as a way to target the global market. The company sells gazpacho in Spain and Veg Pizza McPuff in India (Gorham et al., 2016). In the United States, the corporation competes with Wendy’s and Burger King. McDonald’s uses differentiation and positioning strategies to compete in the fast food market. Gorham et al. (2016) aver, “McDonald’s delivers an experience to its customers through its trademark, which embodies quality, service, cleanliness, and value” (p. 21). The company applies what it terms as “plan to win” approach, which receives immense support from employees, suppliers, and operators.

McDonald’s uses a blend of company-operated and franchise models that are popular in the fast food industry. It has split its market into five major categories. They are the United States, Asia, Europe, Middle East, and Africa. The market segments have diverse tastes and preferences, as well as cultures. Thus, McDonald’s uses a think global act local approach to target the various markets.

Diagnosis

The number of obese people in the United States is alarming. Research indicates that more than 30% of the American kids are overweight. The majority of the people associate obese with consumption of junk food. Alheritiere, Montois, Galinski, Tazarourte, and Lapostolle (2013) argue that the association of junk foods with obesity has a negative impact on McDonald’s brand. The company has taken the initiative to mitigate the effects of the negative perceptions of its performance.

Barker (2013) claims, “McDonald’s initiated a broke the change campaign that replaced its Golden arches with a question mark to show its dramatic transformation on food nutrition structure” (p. 105). Additionally, it introduced changes in the menu to incorporate healthier meals like fruits and salads. Even though McDonald’s has come up with a strategy aimed at changing customers’ perception of its products and enlightening them on the available healthy meals, it has not succeeded in promoting new products (Barker, 2013). A majority of the customers do not know about the latest products that the company sells.

Moreover, many people are afraid of sharing their experience at McDonald’s with friends. Alheritiere et al. (2013) argue that most customers who visit McDonald’s outlets order junk food; an indication that they do not know that the restaurant sells healthy products. Customers continue to associate the company with junk food. Moreover, numerous customers do not trust the nutrition messages, which fast food restaurants relay. Hence, McDonald’s requires formulating an integrated communication strategy that will not only enlighten customers on the availability of healthy products but also encourage them to change their dietary behaviors.

Kotter’s 8-Step Approach

For an organization to realize change, the management must establish a climate for transformation, engage the stakeholders, and implement and sustain the change. The factors that contribute to successful conversion include “sense of urgency, commitment, stakeholder engagement, openness, clear vision, good and clear communication, strong leadership, and a well-executed plan” (Uspenskiy, 2013, p. 19).

Creating a Sense of Urgency

According to Uspenskiy (2013), an organization cannot realize significant transformation without instilling a sense of necessity in the minds of employees and other stakeholders. Organizational leaders must ensure that stakeholders appreciate the significance of the intended change. Employees are mostly opposed to change and prefer status quo. Thus, it would be difficult for an organization to achieve transformation without instilling a sense of urgency in employees’ minds.

Creating a sense of urgency entails analyzing the target markets and discussing possible competition, changes in customer buying behaviors, and identifying future opportunities. Currently, increase in the cases of obesity has led to some consumers reviewing their dietary behaviors (Alheritiere et al., 2013). Many consumers prefer purchasing healthy meals to junk food. McDonald’s has reviewed its menu to include healthy meals.

Nevertheless, many customers continue to associate it with junk food. The company is currently losing health-conscious customers to rival outlets that serve healthy foods. Thus, the management should appreciate that McDonald’s requires changing its operations. It is the high time that the management starts sharing candid facts with employees and stakeholders to make them realize the need for change. Sharing information about the lost market share and level of customers’ knowledge regarding McDonald’s products will lead to the management seeing the need for an integrated communication strategy.

Establishing a Strong Guiding Coalition

The second phase of change implementation entails building a robust guiding alliance (Uspenskiy, 2013). The leadership brings together a team comprising skilled individuals who facilitate the realization of the intended change. The team may be made up of managers and other prominent persons in the company. A business cannot realize difference without the support of the executive. Thus, it is imperative to have a representation of the executive in the coalition.

McDonald’s should form a guiding alliance comprising executives, senior managers, and staff from the marketing department. Employees from the marketing department understand the dynamics of products promotion. Therefore, they can quickly formulate a communication strategy that considers the needs of all the target consumers. The inclusion of the executives in the coalition will guarantee that the communication strategy gets the blessings of the top leadership. The coalition team should work in liaison with key customers, especially the youths, to understand their preferred mode of communication and use it to reach them.

Creating a Vision

The established alliance is responsible for creating a clear vision that guides the change efforts. The vision paints a picture of how the company will look like after realizing the change. The primary objective of McDonald’s communication strategy is to change consumers’ attitude about its brand and help them to abandon their past eating behaviors. The coalition should articulate McDonald’s vision and come up with strategies to facilitate its realization.

The team should identify the values that are core to the transformation. Additionally, it should come up with a vision statement that captures what is envisioned as the future of McDonald’s. The coalition must ensure that the vision is easy to communicate not only to employees but also customers. It will go a long way towards ensuring that the marketing department does not encounter challenges in formulating the communication strategy. Moreover, it will enable the marketing team to create a message that is easy to understand and captures the interests of a broad target market.

Communicating the Vision

Pollack and Pollack (2015) insist, “The coalition must actively communicate the vision, which involves using every vehicle possible to ensure that employees understand the new vision and strategies for achieving it” (p. 57). The coalition should inculcate new behaviors in employees to guarantee the achievement of the vision. As per Pollack and Pollack (2015), successfully communicating the vision to employees may encourage their cooperation.

It would help them to make the necessary sacrifices for the sake of the common goal. The coalition should ensure that it convinces the stakeholders, particularly the marketing staff, to guarantee that they support the introduction of an integrated communication strategy. The coalition members, together with the executive must walk the talk. The coalition should hold meetings with marketing employees to enlighten them on the significance of an integrated communication strategy.

Moreover, there should be communication amid the departments to ensure that the entire company works together towards the implementation of an integrated communication campaign. Leaders should ensure that they incorporate the vision in all spheres of operations. Moreover, activities should be evaluated based on the goals of the integrated communication strategy.

Empowering Others

Communication alone cannot enable an organization to empower workers and encourage them to embrace and acquaint with changes. Organizational leaders should use skilled and devoted employees to endorse reforms. McDonald’s should persuade the marketing department to use integrated communication approach to commune with target consumers. Despite McDonald’s including healthy foods on its menu, many customers order junk food whenever they visit the restaurant. The company still retains its reputation as the leader in junk food business. It underscores the reason most health-oriented clients avoid the restaurant.

The company should encourage employees to take the lead in advocating healthy eating. For instance, workers should wear branded uniforms that promote healthy eating habits. The leadership should build optimism in the marketing department. It should acknowledge and reward achievements. Giving feedback on the effectiveness of the communication strategy will go a long way towards ensuring that all employees embrace the change.

Establishing Short-Term Wins

Employees feel motivated after seeing results of their effort. Thus, it is imperative to set short-term goals in the course of change implementation. McDonald’s should avoid targeting multiple goals concurrently as this might result in chaos. Instead, it should set short-term goals that are not only easy to realize but also cost-effective. The company should split the overall goal into short-term objectives. For instance, it can purpose to change consumers’ attitudes in six months.

Moreover, it can run a campaign to enlighten customers on the availability of healthy foods in its restaurants. Alternatively, the company can use the communication strategy to persuade consumers to change their dietary behaviors. McDonald’s can achieve this by formulating messages that draw attention, are logical, and promote change amid consumers with entrenched behaviors.

Consolidating Developments

Short-term gains should not make the management and entire company lose focus of the overall vision. Farkas (2013) alleges that organizational leaders ought to view each success as a chance to enhance what went right and established areas that require improvement. Corporate leaders should consolidate advances and endeavor to realize additional changes.

McDonald’s should work towards the realization of the integrated communication strategy by using the integrity gained from their experience to transform policies, structures, and systems, which do not align with the vision. The company should also equip its marketing staff with requisite skills to manage the communication strategy. McDonald’s should set goals to help it sustain the attained success. The marketing managers should establish circumstances and structures that encourage employees to take risk and address problems without fear.

Integrating the Changes

Once the changes yield positive results, it is imperative to incorporate them into the business culture (Farkas, 2013). An organization must ensure that all employees embrace changes and make them part of their daily activities. The leadership should endeavor to make sure that the changes are reflected in all facets of the communication strategy. It will help to entrench the transformation into the corporate culture. The leadership of McDonald’s should continue to support the change. New employees should be encouraged to embrace the communication strategy and serve as healthy eating ambassadors.

The administration should continuously update employees on progress to guarantee the success of the integrated communication strategy. It should also overtly recognize and reward employees who contribute to the success of the communication strategy. Departmental managers may not remain in one position for a long time. Thus, it is imperative to in advance prepare other employees who can replace them. McDonald’s should come up with a plan to substitute marketing managers who leave the company or get promoted. It will help to ensure that the marketing department runs its operations without hitches.

Conclusion

McDonald’s should implement an integrated communication strategy to help it to change consumers’ attitude and persuade them to embrace healthy eating behaviors. The emergence of a health-conscious customer base has led to fast food companies changing their menus. Even though McDonald’s serve healthy foods, most customers still associate it with junk food. The company should run an integrated communication campaign to enlighten customers on the presence of healthy meals in its restaurants.

The leadership should use facts to create a sense of urgency amid the workers. It should also establish a team comprising experienced employees to facilitate the realization of the changes. The team must be responsible for creating a vision for the communication strategy. The vision ought to be communicated to all employees to win their support. The company’s leadership should empower employees to mitigate resistance. Setting short-term goals will motivate workers to pursue the broad vision of the communication strategy. Leaders should endeavor to consolidate gains and work towards achieving additional changes. McDonald’s should make integrated communication strategy part of its corporate culture.

References

Alheritiere, A., Montois, S., Galinski, M., Tazarourte, K., & Lapostolle, F. (2013). Woldwide relationship between the number of McDonald’s restaurants and the prevalence of obesity. Journal of Internal Medicine, 274(6), 610-611.

Barker, R. (2013). Strategic integrated communication: An alternative perspective on integrated marketing communication? South African Journal of Communication Theory and Research, 39(1), 102-121.

Farkas, M. (2013). Building and sustaining a culture of assessment: Best practices for change leadership. Reference Services Review, 41(1), 13-31.

Gorham, L., Gibson, C., & Irlbeck, E. (2016). Making a case for McDonald’s: A qualitative case study examining the McDonald’s “our food, your questions” campaign. Journal of Applied Communications, 100(4), 17-32.

Pollack, J., & Pollack, R. (2015). Using Kotter’s eight stage process to manage an organizational change program: Presentation and practice. Systemic Practice and Action Research, 28(1), 51-66.

Uspenskiy, D. (2013). Change management approach for enterprise transformation and improvement. Cambridge, MA: Massachusetts Institute of technology.

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