Our Food. Your Questions. campaign main page

The responsively designed “Our Food. Your Questions.” campaign website. Users enter their question, which is answered by McDonald’s staff. Question length is limited to 140 characters to facilitate sharing across social networks.

Our Food. Your Questions.” is all about transparency. Thousands of questions appear on the campaign’s webpage about health, quality and ethics, and many of them are pretty cynical. How do you convince a brand like McDonald’s to engage with those issues out in the open?

McDonald’s Canada was acutely aware that these myths were already out there and had run quality TV spots and created website content to address them.

While they had seen positive results, they were not having a sustaining effect and thus were open to pursuing a more direct and provocative approach to engaging with their consumers.

Our team illustrated how the solution was ‘hidden in plain sight’: buried within the FAQs section of McDonalds.ca.  The truth just needed to be socialized and amplified to reach more people in a more compelling way.

The key is in understanding the digital behaviour of McDonald’s consumers and the simplicity of the idea.

We conceived a transparency platform that taps into consumer skepticism and responds to their questions directly, yet in a creative way (text, images and video) across various platforms (web, mobile, social networks and out-of-home).

One of the major challenges for any brand – especially B2C brands – is to control the message. In this case, McDonald’s isn’t controlling it so much as it is steering it towards a specific place on the web. What do you think other brands can learn from this strategy?

The days of controlling your brand message are over with. Consumers steer the dialogue; McDonald’s simply jumped in to become a part of the conversation and were rewarded by its transparent approach. So, just be human, be honest and reap the rewards.

To make this shift, it’s important that brands are prepared – by researching the conversation thoroughly, understanding the dynamic and developing strong insight into the dialogue before diving in.

McDonald's photoshop cheeseburger

A screenshot of a video response to the question, “why does your food look different in the advertising than what is in the store?”.

McDonald’s recognized that paramount to being authentic was in how it presented the food (and ultimately our brand) to consumers. It makes it a lot easier that the food looks pretty delicious in an unpolished photograph.

It’s impossible to control how content spreads online, so even though this initiative was designed for a Canadian audience, it has made a splash in the international media. How do you think global brands should deal with this new reality?

Global brands can address this reality by creating a framework for regions to participate in. We were sensitive of the possibility of spillover into the United States and created a geo-fenced platform that only enables direct engagement with Canadian consumers.

This measure didn’t stop the video responses from being shared around the world, so all content was labeled with “McDonald’s Canada” and was explicit in describing the content as being specific to McDonald’s Canada’s supply chain.

The campaign aims to stamp out rumours about the brand. Why be responsive instead of proactive? It seems counterintuitive.

By being responsive to consumers, by listening versus talking, brands gain a stronger perspective of how to communicate with all of [their] constituents. McDonald’s purposefully took a non-promotional approach and tone, simply inviting consumers to engage with the platform.

The company did employ paid advertising that featured consumers’ questions several months after the initial launch of the program. This tactic was used to stimulate even more questions and generated a robust conversation among millions of people.