Credit: Mike Mozart/Flickr

McDonald's is letting customers pay with hugs

The embattled fast food giant is trying to fix its American image problem with, you guessed it, 'lovin'.

by Rachel Savage
Last Updated: 02 Feb 2015

McDonald’s is going on a charm offensive and it’s cheesier than, well, a double cheeseburger. The embattled fast food giant is letting a select few customers pay with hugs, dancing and other forms of ‘lovin’’ between now and Valentine’s Day, as it hauls itself up by the beef patties under the new leadership of Brit Steve Easterbrook.

Between now and Valentine’s Day, anyone visiting a McDonald’s in the US could be chosen to perform a ‘random act of Lovin’,’ the company said, deploying what was both a clever and cringeworthy play on its ‘I’m lovin’ it’ tagline. Only 100 people will get picked on per restaurant, but by its own estimate that means around 1 million customers getting their food for free.

The restaurant chain also showed off the publicity ploy in a suitably tear-jerking 30 second, $4.5m (£3m) Super Bowl ad last night (MT defies anyone to watch it without fighting back a lump in their throat).

Clearly, McDonald’s is in need of an image makeover in the US. Around the world its like-for-like sales fell for the first time in 12 years in 2014. But it’s in its home market that the customers are really fleeing the Golden Arches, trading in Big Macs for healthier options and more millennial-friendly chains like Chipotle and the newly IPOd Shake Shack.

That saw to CEO Don Thompson last week, as he was sent on his way after a two-and-half year stint at the top and 25 years in total with the chain. His replacement Easterbrook was the global brand officer, having previously led McDonald’s in the UK, where he fixed its all-American image problem, and Europe.

With a marketing man in charge, hugs are no doubt just the start, and not just in the US – UK boss Jill McDonald also comes from a branding background. You have been warned.

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