In an effort to respond to growing concerns about childhood obesity and the role of nutrition, McDonald’s has launched a PR campaign targeting the very group behind food choices: Moms.
The company has tapped six women to volunteer as reporters for its Moms Quality Correspondents panel. The purpose is to show moms what the company is all about and change perceptions that McDonald’s a place just for high-calorie fast food.
McDonald’s said it would take into consideration thoughts and ideas the women generate for future marketing initiatives.
The six moms, who were selected from more than 4,000 applicants, will act as “correspondents” and report their findings via blogs and videos at McDonaldsMom.com through September. As part of their role, the women received a front and center view of the company’s headquarters, its operation and what goes into its food preparation and distribution.
The group will also visit McDonald’s beef suppliers in Oklahoma City, OK, and have a chance to stand behind the counter in a restaurant. The final visit will be to a produce facility in New York.
“We know moms are the decision makers for the household,” said McDonald’s spokesperson Tara Hayes. “We want to make sure moms who are making decisions are given the right information so they can make sound decisions.”
The company has hopes the program will counter the unhealthful image that books like “Fast Food Nation” and films like “Super Size Me” have cast on the fast food industry and will get moms to listen to others about the brand.
“What the program is really doing is giving an authentic voice to what we know and believe about our brand and our food,” said Molly Starmann, McDonald’s director of U.S. marketing. “It’s helping us demystify some of the perceptions out there.”
McDonald’s is using real people to tell its story in hopes that will better resonate with other customers.
“We tried to [tell our story] but it’s something not as credible as if it’s coming from customers,” Starmann said. “We know moms listen to other moms and word of mouth is the most incredible source. We think they are great advocates for our quality story.”
Experts say McDonald’s PR push to get moms on board is nothing new. The company ran McMoms, a direct marketing program targeting mothers. An online newsletter offered parenting, women’s health and nutrition tips.
And last year, McDonald’s launched its Global Moms Panel, which is designed to connect the brand more closely with its customers and engage them in meaningful dialogue.
“Mothers have always been an important marketing element for them,” said Scott Hume, executive editor for Restaurants & Institutions. “It shows that what they have done in the past has been valuable enough. They are keeping it going, adding new wrinkles to it.”
What’s fueling the focus is the ongoing outcry from parents, child advocates and nutritionists about childhood obesity. “It’s all part of the health and nutrition issue,” Hume said. “And for quick service restaurants, it’s an issue you want to communicate with mothers who make decisions on what their kids eat.”
When the program concludes in September, McDonald’s plans to review the material it gleaned from the moms to consider how it can play a role in its marketing efforts.
“We will garner insight into the quality of our food that can help us with our marketing to moms and help us with marketing to customers in general,” Starmann said.
“We listen to our customers,” Hayes added. “If they are give us an idea, we are certainly going to listen.”