2003: McDonald's first global communications campaign

the new strategic brief: a story book


McDonald's had its share of brand struggles as it entered the 21st century. Visionary CEO, Charlie Bell recognized the potential power of a new, uplifting and unifying brand campaign ... around the world.


Solution: a contest among McDonald's' agency networks for the honor of executing McDonald's first and only global campaign. This required a strategic brief to the agencies, grounded in a strategy developed by a large team of McDonald's business leaders. The strategy had many parts, to satisfy many audiences. None were creative agency people. Starting out in the agency world, my solution was a "story" book to INSPIRE ... vs. direct ... creative talent to invent a brand new energy. Goals were simple. Make the brand relevant again, staying true to its roots, with eyes-on-the-prize: 3 refocused targets critical to success. 


The result: the 2003 launch of the "i'm lovin' it" campaign. Still running today ... around the world. 


global packaging trans4mation







As with many brands which expand multi-nationally, McDonald's needed to "channel" creative energies of its offices in each country. Dubbed  'the brand empress' by great partners on McDonald's global legal team, together we worked to publish and enforce brand standards.

Packaging is McDonald's #2 cost. I saw a distinct global opportunity to turn that cost into a powerful marketing asset. It could become another huge platform to tell a new brand story ... aligned with the global "i'm lovin' it" launch.  But, not exclusive to it.


CEO Charlie Bell got it - fast. Together, we embarked on an corporate journey to convince ALL of our own internal stakeholders, ALL of whom "owned" packaging/costs, to invest in this trans4mation.



Most people in the company saw then-current packaging as strong: particularly in the U.S., where big bold branding was visible from a block away.


This is great.


ONLY if people already associate ALL of the brand attributes you want and need to succeed - with your huge brand icon.





Few believed packaging could have the powerful impact this trans4mation created.


In research prior to launch, it had consumers seeing and believing very new and important things about the brand: "I think this says it's a company that now cares about people" ... "It shows McDonald's is starting to understand what's important to me" ... "They have a new, more hip attitude" ... "It says the food is now healthier".


Net: packaging the company was already paying for, moved beyond pure brand recognition to telegraph many important, positive brand messages that were key to building brand success in the ever more competitive global marketplace.


Our global team also garnered millions of dollars of free PR. And internal company leadership saw an established cost, beyond marketing, adding fuel to the success of the new campaign.


trans4ming the brand: brilliant creative ideas transcend borders


My work with McDonald's began seven years before this packaging trans4mation. In 1996, McDonald's management understood there was a big opportunity to make a great brand greater. Originally recruited to Leo Burnett to create a brand strategy think tank for McDonald's provided a great opportunity to work with talented creative teams, bringing the brand to life in 22 markets around the world.


Part of inventing & fulfilling this new function was working with a visionary client and the entire McDonald's global network to define, inspire & encourage great work. My focus, as it remains today, was engaging the right resources to ensure entertainment value that was bonded to a real, compelling brand value proposition & clear retail goals.


Here are just a few of my still-favorite ads where I 'facilitated execution' (read: identified powerful branding potential, championed creative with "talk value", made sure they got made & made sure they were GREAT) ...


McDonald's "Small Fry Love": Our great client at McDonald's Sweden bought this ad. Los Angeles was picked for the location shoot to save on costs, complete with street signs in Swedish. Back a decade before, with my backgound in psychology I coined the concept: "the deep that unites". We believed this creative idea was so universal, it would touch a chord. So the agency pro-actively shot footage without the Swedish signage. Beyond winning McDonald's own 'best of the year' advertising award in 1998 -- as expected, the un-Swedished version was used, by other markets around the world.



McDonald's "Fish Symphony" was originally created in 1997 for McDonald's Hong Kong. Another 'best of the year'.


Still relevant 13 years later? Take a look at this commercial from Lebanon in 2010: You decide.

[note: all work shown above is the property of McDonald's Corporation]