Who’s Spending the Most to Get Your Attention?

Biggest advertisers in America (ranked by annual dollars spent), according to 2013 Kantar Group report:

  1. AT&T: $1.59 billion
  2. Verizon: $1.43 billion
  3. Chevrolet: $958 million
  4. McDonald’s: $957 million
  5. GEICO: $921 million
  6. Toyota: $879 million
  7. Ford: $857 million
  8. T-Mobile: $773 million
  9. Macy’s: $762 million
  10. Wal-Mart: $690 million

Is it Time to Apologize for all the Apologizing?

I realize many readers of our blog may not be card carrying members of the Bill Maher Fan Club, but his recent column in The New York Times is worth considering. Additionally, Ragan.com asked whether the bevy of businesses and brands apologizing lately should also heed Maher’s advice.

Read Maher’s entire piece in the NYT. But here’s a sample:

If it weren’t for throwing conniption fits, we wouldn’t get any exercise at all.

I have a better idea. Let’s have an amnesty — from the left and the right — on every made-up, fake, totally insincere, playacted hurt, insult, slight and affront. Let’s make this Sunday the National Day of No Outrage. One day a year when you will not find some tiny thing someone did or said and pretend you can barely continue functioning until they apologize.

If that doesn’t work, what about this: If you see or hear something you don’t like in the media, just go on with your life. Turn the page or flip the dial or pick up your roll of quarters and leave the booth.

The answer to whenever another human being annoys you is not “make them go away forever.” We need to learn to coexist, and it’s actually pretty easy to do. For example, I find Rush Limbaugh obnoxious, but I’ve been able to coexist comfortably with him for 20 years by using this simple method: I never listen to his program. The only time I hear him is when I’m at a stoplight next to a pickup truck.

When the lady at Costco gives you a free sample of its new ham pudding and you don’t like it, you spit it into a napkin and keep shopping. You don’t declare a holy war on ham.

Careful with Those Hashtags

I recently posted a blog mentioning some of the good things McDonald’s was doing on social media. Today comes a cautionary tale from the fast food giant about Twitter hashtags. The Huffington Post reports (or whatever you call it when an aggregate news site reposts stuff):

From there, the #McDStories hashtag was born, but probably not in the way McDonald’s was hoping. Negative tweets about the fast food giant began to proliferate, prompting the New York Observer to remark that "some stories are better left untold." Tweets ranged from tweeting about being high while eating McDonald’s to throwing up the food.

While the hashtag grew steam, McDonald’s also had a back and forth with PETA on Twitter, in which McDonald’s tried to correct some of PETA’s allegations about using mechanically separated white meat.

This isn’t the first time that a fast food company has lost control of its hashtag, points out MainStreet.com. Perhaps even worse than #McDStories was Wendy’s hashtag of last year, #HeresTheBeef.

Hamburglin’: Steal Some Beefy Social Media Tips from McDonald’s

Despite your position on the merits of the Big Mac, you may be able to benefit from some social media tips from the king of fast food chains. PR Daily reports:

As one of the most successful businesses and most recognizable brands in the world, McDonald’s is no stranger to the particulars of marketing and PR.

But how does the company manage social media?

Rick Wion, director of social media for McDonald’s, spoke with PR Daily about the ways the Golden Arches manages the wide world of social media. From that conversation, here are seven tips for social media success, including how you can take action at your organization:

1. Determine why your company is using social media.

Wion said that McDonald’s uses social media for three main purposes:

  1. To sell products;
  2. To build the brand;
  3. To engage with customers and manage issues as they emerge.

Take action: Sit down with your communications, marketing, and PR departments (and whoever else you think should be involved) and determine your objectives for social media. This way, your team will understand its goals and have structure.

2. Employ different strategies for different platforms.

The social media team doesn’t have a one-size-fits-all approach to social media. It has different strategies for the various platforms on which it operates. “People want to see videos, polls, and brand entertainment,” Wion said of the McDonald’s Facebook presence.

Instead of posting nothing more than updates (or, God forbid, linking your Twitter feed to your Facebook page), set out to entertain your audience, Wion advised. Poll them about current events, post funny pictures and videos, and share stories about your brand.

Wion and his team use Twitter for “general communication, customer satisfaction, and building awareness.”

Take action: Which social media platforms make the most sense for your business? How do you plan to use each platform? When posting, keep the purpose of the platform in mind.

3. Make sure measurement jibes with your strategic goals.

“The blessing and the curse of social media is that you can measure in dozens, if not hundreds of ways,” said Wion. “The problem is that there aren’t any standards for what success looks like.”

As a result, McDonald’s has found that the best way to measure is to do so by campaign, because what is being measured varies by product and brand.

Take action: Don’t measure just for the sake of measuring. Have specific objectives in mind. Figure out what you want to see.

4. Entertain people.

Would you visit a boring Facebook page or regularly check a mundane, repetitive Twitter account? No? Your fans don’t want to, either.

Wion suggests publishing “unexpected posts” on your social media channels. From sharing posts that provide little-known information to drafting humorous updates, you can surprise and delight people and separate yourself from the millions of other updates.

Take action: See what other people are doing on social media and then experiment with your own content. What time of the day do people tend to engage with your page? What kind of posts does your audience respond to most? Respond accordingly.

5. Get organized.

Though there’s something to be said for spur-of-the-moment creativity, it’s not always sustainable or practical to live by the seat of your pants. Wion and his team use an editorial calendar, created using Excel, to manage posts and stories. Your team can use one to ensure that posts are relevant to upcoming holidays, events, and times of the year.

Take action: Create a calendar with your team. Mark important dates and ensure your team is aware and on top of the schedule.

6. Give your social media content some personality.

Wion knows that different social media platforms call for different social media “voices.” On Twitter, the McDonald’s team lets the personality of the Twitter team shine through because “people want to connect with actual people on Twitter,” he says.

The official McDonald’s Twitter feed features a link with the bios of its social media team. On Facebook, McDonald’s understands that people want to connect with their brand, so they use a “voice” that best represents the McDonald’s brand.

Take action: Determine your brand’s target audience. Use the voice most appropriate for that audience and the channels on which you’ve chosen to promote your brand.

7. Provide opportunities for consumers to ask questions.

McDonald’s hosts Twitter chats under the hashtag #MCDChanging to give fans the opportunity to speak with people like the company’s vice president of sustainability and, most recently, its chief marketing officer.

Take action: Find opportunities for your fan base to connect with decision-makers. Show them that they have a voice and that you’re listening to them. You can easily create a Twitter hashtag and promote your chat on your blog, on your Facebook page, and through your Twitter account. Follow other chats first to get a feel for the format and what to expect.

Woman Files Lawsuit, Claims McDonald’s Makes Parenting Hard

I don’t know what I can add to this. The Foundry reports:

Monet Parham, an employee of the California Department of Public Health, has lent her name—and that of her daughter Maya, age 6—to a preposterous class-action lawsuit alleging that McDonald’s is “unfair” to parents. The lure of a Happy Meal toy, Parham claims, so provokes Maya’s “pester power” that familial conflict ensues.

We’re not making this up.

The real tragedy here is that Parham is free to file a wholly frivolous lawsuit, while there’s no recourse for McDonald’s to recoup its legal costs. Nor can Maya hold her mother responsible for thrusting her into the national spotlight as a “pest” when, in reality, there’s nothing the least bit untoward about the little girl’s attraction to toys.

Perpetrating this scam is the (so-called) Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), whose bread and butter is filing baseless lawsuits against major food manufacturers and restaurants, including Denny’s, Burger King, Coca Cola, and Kentucky Fried Chicken. All of which generates loads of front-page headlines and major bucks from liberal foundations. But were it not for the capitulation of some gutless corporations, the CSPI would likely have been rendered powerless a long time ago.

To their credit, McDonald’s executives have pledged to “vigorously defend” the Happy Meal against the CSPI suit, the particulars of which ought to make every responsible parent wince. To wit:

  • “Maya has requested Happy Meals from Parham because of McDonald’s marketing practices, and sometimes Parham, not wishing to cause family rancor, purchases such meals.”
  • “Because of McDonald’s marketing, Maya has frequently pestered Parham into purchasing Happy Meals, thereby spending money on a product she would not have otherwise purchased.”
  • “Maya, age six, continually clamors to be taken to McDonald’s ‘for the toys.’ Maya learns of Happy Meal toys from other children in her playgroup, despite Parham’s efforts to restrict Maya’s exposure to McDonald’s advertising and access to Happy Meal toys.”

It’s rather perverse for Parham to claim that McDonald’s is “interfering” in her family while, at the same time, she’s inviting judicial intervention into parenting decisions. As an employee with the nutrition section of California’s health department, Parham can already nag her fellow citizens about their eating habits. But asking the court to strip parents of their authority to decide what to feed their children constitutes Nannyism of a different scale.

McDonald’s Foursquare Campaign Yields Positive Results (How Positive is Still Being Determined)

If you’re like me, you’re not a big fan of location-based social media. My general view is that unless you’re my child (or dog, in my case), I’m hoping to rob your home or I’m stalking you, I don’t need to know where you are or what you’re doing. However, some businesses have been using Foursquare as a way to engage loyal customers via discount offers and rewards. Case in point, McDonald’s recently gave it a shot and generated as much as 33% more foot traffic:

With so many brands trying their hand at location-based marketing campaigns, one has to wonder: is Foursquare really effective as a platform for bringing in new business? McDonald’s seems to think so; the company’s head of social media Rick Wion recently spoke of the fast food giant’s big wins from a spring pilot program using Foursquare.

At the Mobile Social Communications conference yesterday, Wion shared that McDonald’s was able to increase foot traffic to stores by 33% in one day with a little Foursquare() ingenuity. McDonald’s total cost for the successful campaign was a measly $1,000.

Econsultanty reports that McDonald’s, with Wion driving campaign direction and strategy, opted to try and take advantage of Foursquare Day (4/16) to bring in more business. The company used 100 randomly awarded $5 and $10 giftcards as checkin bait to lure in potential diners. The bait also worked to attract the media’s attention and resulted in more than 50 articles covering McDonald’s Foursquare special.

The campaign worked in both digital and real world capacities. Patrons flocked to McDonald’s restaurants for the chance to win giftcards in exchange for checkins, and 600,000 online denizens opted to follow and fan the brand on social media sites.

“I was able to go to some of our marketing people — some of whom had never heard of Foursquare — and say, ‘Guess what. With this one little effort, we were able to get a 33% increase in foot traffic to the stores’,” Wion explained to conference attendees.

A company of McDonald’s size spends millions on advertising every year, and yet a simple $1,000 Foursquare campaign netted the company measurable success. Of course, the metric here was checkins (not sales), and there were likely several other factors contributing to the campaign’s success, but it’s still a story that many an agency should pay heed to.

McDonald’s is not alone in their Foursquare success. Earlier this year, Domino’s UK attributed social media, and its Foursquare pilot program in particular, as a primary factor in helping the company increase profits by 29%.

But NOT SO FAST, says ReadWriteWeb. The site asserts McDonald’s claims are a bit, shall we say, super-sized.