When Organizational Change Is About What They Think, Not What You Sell

2 min read
Jan 13, 2015

iStock_000038348170_SmallThat standby of fast food, McDonald’s, has announced a new brand vision for 2015. The move is one of a series of changes the company has made over the past few years, including a redesign of its stores in 2011. But while this most recent announcement does mention “new packaging and signage,” the focus is not on the physical.

The first part of the announcement emphasizes the long-standing McDonald’s slogan, “I’m lovin it,” and follows up by saying that the company’s philosophy will go from “billions served” to “billions heard.” Together, the two phrases paint a picture of happiness and connection—a picture that doesn’t include specific details about how the actual McDonald’s products will change.

Judging By The Cover

Rebranding is a form of organizational change that can be almost entirely about opinion instead of actual products. Take a look at the two biggest discount retailers in the U.S., Walmart and Target. They’ve always been about offering low prices, but these industry giants expanded their market by changing the way they looked to customers.

Target tells you to “Expect More. Pay Less.” Similarly, Walmart moved from “Always Low Prices” to “Save Money. Live Better.” It’s not just about how much you’ll spend at these stores, but what you’ll get in return: something that will improve your life. The merchandise isn’t necessarily different (though Target did add designer apparel), but now they’re selling an aspirational vision alongside it. They changed the image that the customer sees, both of the shopping experience and themselves as consumers.

A Picture Of Health

Now McDonald’s is going in the same direction. Sales for the burger chain are down, including in the coveted demographic of millennials. The public perception of McDonald’s food as unhealthy (even more so than rival businesses like Chipotle) puts it at a disadvantage with a generation that’s pushing for freshness and quality. We also know that millennials prefer companies that practice social responsibility, and the recent worker protests against low wages could not have made McDonald’s look good in that arena.

The company is responding by trying to improve its public image. Its “Our Food, Your Questions” campaign, launched late last year, is aimed at reassuring customers that there are no unsafe ingredients or other dirty secrets in its products. Now it’s planning to create a partnership with a charity in order to boost “the brand perceptions of McDonald’s as a good corporate citizen.”

The revamping of stores and menus is certainly a part of this overall update. But McDonald’s is well aware that the only way to revitalize its business is to shape the brand image into one that customers want to see. That’s because organizational change is about more than physical products and manufacturing procedures. A vital part of change—and sometimes the most important part—is about what goes on in customers’ minds.



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