Ronald McDonald – Is he a friend or a foe?

June 5, 2011

in Business

As a business, building your brand and consumer awareness is at the top of your to do list. But what do you do when the thing you are most recognized for is controversial among your audience?

That is the dilemma facing McDonalds. Right now there are some that think Ronald McDonald should hang up his red wig and floppy shoes. They feel Ronald is past his prime, he doesn’t fit the new image McDonald’s is trying to convey and he encourages kids to eat unhealthy.

Ronald has been with McDonald’s for 48 years. He started as a rather odd looking clown with a paper cup on his nose and for trivia fans; the first Ronald was Willard Scott. Since then his look has changed. His red wig is trimmed and his clothes aren’t as baggy, but overall he is still recognizable. In fact 99% of U.S. consumers know Ronald when they see him.

McDonald’s has been working hard to update its image from just a burger fast food chain. They are offering better coffee, smoothies and fresh fruit options with your meals. They understand that this is the direction their consumers are looking for and they want to keep pace.

Mcdonald's spokesperson Ronald McDonald

Ronald McDonald has represented McDonalds for 48 years.

The CEO, Jim Skinner feels that Ronald is a wonderful ambassador. He is in the community doing good work. His Ronald McDonald Houses help the families of sick children. Skinner doesn’t see a need to retire Ronald and wants him to continue to represent the company.

What do you think? Is Ronald a bad influence on children’s diets? Is he too old fashioned to represent the new and improved McDonald’s image?

weekdaysolomommy June 20, 2011 at 10:03 pm

It’s not Ronald, it’s the content of the food that’s the issue. Ronald is a fun guy who throws great parties, and is the ambassador to the Ronald McDonald houses. I’m glad that McDonalds is re-vamping their image and adding healthier options. I hope that they keep increasing the quality of their products and having healthier products and options. But, no matter what McDonalds (or Old McDonalds as my daughter calls it) does or doesn’t do, it’s up to parents to decide what their kids eat and where they take their kids for meals. Anything is fine in moderation, but healthy eating habits start at home.

Red Kathy June 6, 2011 at 11:10 pm

Hi Sandy,

This is a great article. I think it’s mom and dads responsibility to see that their children eat healthy and learn the proper eating habits not Ronald McDonald. I believe it is the government that bring about this pressure and it is nonsense,and none of their business. They can’t even efficiently run a local DMV much less regulate the restaurant/food industry. Like you say, McDonalds has been working hard to update their image and their foods.

I certainly believe that Ronald McDonald should stay. The good this company does for communities across the nation I think is not appreciated by the masses. Those who receive services from efforts such as The Ronald McDonald house most definitely appreciate McDonald’s Corp and know the true value. Jim Skinner is on target with keeping Ronald McDonald as their ambassador!

bodynsoil June 6, 2011 at 2:58 pm

@keepupweb I think you have touched on an excellent point with this post. With the health of the American people deteriorating it would make perfect sense for Ronald McDonald to decide to get healthy himself. Imagine the advertising campaign that could take with all the discoveries and obstacles he would have to hurdle along the way. There is hope for Ronald yet, it would be a shame to toss out an icon over his bad eating habits, perhaps now is his time to shine and lead his followers in a better direction.

This is only somewhat related, I saw an ad stating chicken McNuggets are now being made with all white meat, vs extruded your guess is as good an mine (I blogged about the process), changes like this show that the chain is listening to what people are saying.

keepupweb June 5, 2011 at 4:43 pm

Ronald McDonald is an iconic brand. I don’t understand why they can’t feature him eating the healthier foods that they are promoting. Can’t he be riding a bicycle or being active too? I agree with Jim Skinner that Ronald is a wonderful ambassador. They need to work on revamping Ronald’s images. If some of these politicians we hear about are able to revamp their tarnished images, surely a good marketing firm can help rebuild his brand. The Ronald McDonald Houses have such a positive reputation. Being associated with Ronald has not negatively impacted them.

SPMarketing11 June 5, 2011 at 4:04 pm

This is a great post. I think Ronald should stay. People change, at least a little bit throughout life, so I think they should be able to tweak Ronald’s values to mirror the apparently new brand values of McDonald’s. The Ronald McDonald House and other community initiatives are too important and intertwined into the public eye to just dismiss the guy. But I do think there should be a larger branding effort, showing how he is aligned with the new McDonald’s so there is less conflicting messages.

Great post!

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