McDonald's (NYSE:MCD) has taken the novel step of attempting to communicate honestly about its food. It's a move that's similar to what Domino's Pizza (NYSE:DPZ) did with its "Pizza Turnaround" ad campaign, but in this case, The Golden Arches is not admitting that it has a problem. Instead, the company has solicited questions from its customers which it's answering online and in television commercials.
The campaign, "Our Food. Your Questions." seeks to debunk certain myths about the chain's products -- such as how much meat is actually in the hamburgers and whether Chicken McNuggets are really made of chicken. The bold effort comes after months of steadily declining sales in the United States and mounting pressure from fast-causal brands which tout the quality of their food including Chipotle (NYSE:CMG) and Panera Bread (NASDAQ:PNRA.DL).
The challenge for McDonald's is overcoming many years of ingrained customer experiences with and opinions on its products. Take for example this exchange from the "Burgers and Sandwiches" section of the "Our Food. Your Questions." site.
Q: Do you use so-called 'pink slime' in your burgers or beef treated with ammonia?
A: Nope. Our beef patties are made from 100% pure beef. Nothing else is added. No fillers, extenders or so-called "pink slime."
Some consumers may be familiar with the practice of using lean finely textured beef sometimes treated with ammonia, which is referred to by some as 'pink slime.' We do not use this.
That technically answers the question but it does not address the underlying issue that people are willing to believe that the company's burgers are made from some lesser material because they have eaten them. McDonald's burgers don't look or behave like the hamburgers you make at home or even the ones sold at higher-end chains like Five Guys.
These ads show that McDonald's does not quite get it. The company wants to be honest, but does not want to improve. The success of Chipotle, Panera, and even Starbucks (NASDAQ:SBUX) suggests that the public wants actual quality. It's one thing to tell people your burgers are made from real beef and another entirely to improve them to the point that people no longer ask.
"Our Food. Your Questions." won't prove to be the success that Pizza Turnaround was. It may sway some fence-sitters, who just want to know the McFood is made of actual food, but if it's not paired with improvements, it won't win back customers lost to chains that put quality first.