by Sophie Rich
In 2012, the well-known fast-food chain, McDonald’s, made an effort to engage with customers by starting conversation with them via Twitter. In order to jump-start this conversation, they decided to create a hashtag, #McDStories, for people to share their “heart-warming stories about Happy Meals,” (Hill, 2012). The campaign was conducted by starting a #MeetTheFarmers hashtag, which was intended to draw consumers attention to their use of fresh produce. The combination of the hashtags was intended to create a place where users could share these good experiences at McDonald’s via a broader network (a.k.a. Twitter). They even went as far as to pay to have the hashtag promoted on Twitter’s homepage.
However, as you probably could have guessed by the headline, this social media campaign turned out to be a complete failure. Business Insider tells us that the campaign back-fired when people started sharing the wrong kind of stories using the Twitter hashtag #McDStories (Lubin, 2012). As you can see from the screen-shotted images of tweets below, the hashtag was instead used to share traumatic experiences, or to voice unhappy and negative opinions.
It wasn’t long before the promoted hashtag was being nicknamed a bashtag instead. So, although McDonald’s had good intentions, the results did not pan out the way they had hoped…simply because they didn’t choose a good way to promote those happy experiences they wanted others to share and feel.
The campaign failed for a few reasons; however, one of the biggest reasons was discussed in an article written by Sherman of CBS News. They quoted in it: “…McDonald’s in this case had no idea what their true perception in the marketplace was. They didn’t see their brand the way consumers did. So when they tried to portray their brand as something it wasn’t, at least from a perception standpoint, they got dinged,” (2012). This identifies the biggest reason they failed in my opinion as well. McDonald’s had a good intention; but, putting something out there without knowing what anyone else’s perception of it was going to be didn’t work out in their favor. It was a risky choice on their part, and most definitely did not pay off.
In addition to the controversial and varying perspectives on a tweetable McDonald’s experience/story, they were also going back and forth in disagreement with PETA while all of this was going on as well. McDonald’s was trying to fight and correct PETA’s allegations about using mechanically separated white meat (Huffington Post, 2012). This put some more heat on McDonald’s in the midst of all this chaos–making their Twitter bust even more difficult to deal with.
However, as an article by CNBC pointed out, this wasn’t the first brand to receive backlash from a Twitter campaign. Because of this, perhaps McDonald’s Twitter fail won’t live on for too long. CNBC also notes, though, that although the promoted hashtag was pulled down, the wrath of it still continued to live on for some time (2012). In addition to this, McDonald’s also chose to react to the campaign by saying, “…only 2% of the 72,788 mentions of McDonald’s…were negative,” (Mandell, 2012).
Looking back, sure, there are probably other ways McDonald’s could have chose to conduct a social media campaign. Although using social media is great for crowd sourcing and getting a word out there as quickly as possible, it is too risky when being used by a brand such as McDonald’s. McDonald’s should continue on with catchy ads and commercials, but avoid any type of campaign that allows consumers to voice their opinion. Next time, McDonald’s needs to have better control over their audience and the messages able to be created and they will hopefully see better, more positive results.
Berk, C. (2012). #McFail? McDonald’s Twitter Campaign Gets Hijacked. CNBC. Retrieved from http://www.cnbc.com/id/46132132#
Hill, K. (2012). #McDStories: When a Hashtag Becomes a Bashtag. Forbes. Retrieved from http://www.forbes.com/sites/kashmirhill/2012/01/24/mcdstories-when-a-hashtag-becomes-a-bashtag/
Lubin, G. (2012). McDonald’s Twitter Campaign Goes Horribly Wrong #McDStories. Business Insider. Retrieved from http://www.businessinsider.com/mcdonalds-twitter-campaign-goes-horribly-wrong-mcdstories-2012
Mandell, N. (2012). McDonald’s #MeetTheFarmers Twitter campaign is met with snide comments and bad reviews. New York Daily News. Retrieved from http://www.nydailynews.com/life-style/eats/mcdonald-meetthefarmers-twitter-campaign-met-snide-comments-bad-reviews-article-1.1010980
Sherman, E. (2012). How McDonald’s Twitter campaign fell into the fire. CBS. Retrieved from http://www.cbsnews.com/news/how-mcdonalds-twitter-campaign-fell-into-the-fire/
Author Unknown. (2012). #McDStories, McDonald’s Twitter Hashtag Promotion, Goes Horribly Wrong. Huffington Post. Retrieved from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/01/23/mcdstories-twitter-hashtag_n_1223678.html