McDonald's African-American marketing gets biggest overhaul in 16 years

By March 29, 2019Advertising
Credit: McDonald’s

McDonald’s newest ads aren’t about some value meal, fancy burger or the ability to order for delivery via a mobile app. They’re the kickoff of the biggest overhaul to the restaurant chain’s African-American marketing in 16 years.

The Golden Arches on Friday is set to unveil “Black & Positively Golden,” an effort so broad it isn’t calling it a campaign but rather “a campaign movement.”

The updated marketing and community outreach show how the largest restaurant chain aims to deepen its ties with African-American customers, particularly millennials. A spokeswoman declined to reveal how much the chain will spend on the effort but called it “one of our biggest priorities of this year.”

“What we’ve done is really refresh the approach to the engagement in order to be more resonant with the African-American consumer today,” says Lizette Williams, McDonald’s USA’s head of cultural engagement and experiences. Black & Positively Golden, she says, “focuses on stories of truth, power and pride and really is a celebration of black excellence.”

Credit: McDonald’s

Black & Positively Golden, which is focused on education, empowerment and entrepreneurship, replaces the 365Black platform that McDonald’s began using in 2003.

It includes a 60-second spot set to air twice during the March 30 broadcast of the 50th Annual NAACP Image Awards. The spot was directed by longtime commercial and film director Joe Pytka and is meant to have a bit of a documentary or “fly on the wall” feel, says Williams. It features people including a Black Marine and feel-good moments such as a woman receiving a giant check for a $10,000 college scholarship from the brand. McDonald’s will also give out a Black & Positively Golden award at the NAACP Image Awards, the first time it has had a branded award and gets to select the recipient.

The social media push will be through a new Instagram channel, @wearegolden. The prior program hadn’t posted to its @365Black Twitter account since December when it celebrated Herman Petty, who became the chain’s first African-American franchisee in 1968. There are now 300 African-American franchisees running more than 1,500 McDonald’s restaurants.

Print ads will run in publications including Essence. Radio ads are also part of the push.

McDonald’s is seeing solid sales growth but needs to get more customers into its restaurants. Sales at longstanding U.S. restaurants rose 2.5 percent last year, despite a 2.2 percent decline in visits to those locations. Williams joined McDonald’s in early 2018 in a new role as the company tries to build brand devotion among multicultural customers. Last year, for example, it expanded its Hacer scholarship program for Hispanic students to 30 winners from five.

McDonald’s is broadening its support of the YWCA on a national level after offering some local support. The push includes a year of financial support for the YWCA’s Women’s Empowerment 360 Program, which helps women of color who aspire to be entrepreneurs. On Friday, it’s hosting an event at a YWCA in Los Angeles’ Leimert Park neighborhood, where participants can help complete a mural by artist Enkone, and see actress Yvonne Orji (Molly on HBO’s “Insecure”) and a performance by singer Normani.

McDonald’s also says it will continue to provide scholarships for students attending historically black colleges and universities through its partnership with the Thurgood Marshall College Fund.

Burrell Communications, which has worked with McDonald’s on campaigns featuring African-Americans since 1972, developed and worked on 365Black is now working on Black & Positively Golden.

Along with Burrell, Walton Isaacson is handling activations including the brand’s presence at BETX and Essence Festival. Other plans include the continuation of the McDonald’s Inspiration Celebration Gospel Tour, which brings the brand to venues including African-American churches. Faith Based Communications is working on the gospel tour.

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