McDonald’s customers ‘not valued’ as CMO admits short-term campaigns are ‘just noise’

McDonald’s chief marketer Mark Lollback has admitted the company has failed to make even its most loyal customers feel wanted and revealed it is turning to technology in a “massive way” to address the issue.

He flagged the launch of the MyMaccas app – revealed by Mumbrella last week – as among key developments that will make consumers feel “part of the business”.

He also divulged how McDonald’s will move away from tactical marketing to an approach that has more longer-term benefits. Competition, meanwhile, has never been tougher Lollback said and acknowledged that McDonald’s is being “nibbled away at the edges”.

Lollback labelled MyMaccas as a “club”, and while he made a point of saying he did not want to call them loyalty programs, he went on to describe elements of the app as rewarding loyalty.

Speaking on the AANA’s Marketing Dividends, a three-minute weekly segment on Sky News Business, Lollback said McDonald’s conducted research into whether its customers felt valued.

“Interestingly, even our loyal customers who come to us very, very regularly said to us they don’t feel valued, so we are trying to unpeel that onion,” he said. “We need to make them feel more valued in the restaurant and we need technology to do that.”

Technology will also be a “critical enabler” to make customers feel valued “outside of the restaurant” as the firm looks for a “more sustainable and expanded connection than what we have today”, he said.

The fast food chain has been staffing up in its marketing department, and it is understood Margaret Zabel will take on a more innovation focussed role when she moves over from the Communications Council next year.

Using MyMaccas as an example of the new thinking, Lollback said: “I don’t want to call them loyalty programs but what we will be launching is a club called MyMaccas that will tackle this issue……and built into that will be a reward program, so if you’re a regular user of McCafe we’ll know when it’s your fifth coffee and we’ll know how to serve you without you carrying a silly piece of cardboard to get a free coffee.”

He added that with the Mysurprises element of the app, McDonalds has created a “surprise and delight mechanism” that rewards members with prizes and incentives without the need to come into the restaurant.

Underpinning MyMaccas will be a “massive CRM platform, database management and digital management”, Lollback said.

The fast food chain will also move into the “digital realm” with kiosks and digital menu boards.

“Digital is going to be massive and we are building up our digital capabilities,” Lollback said. “That will be quite transformational in this whole concept of treating our customers in a more valued way.”

Earlier in the interview, Lollback revealed McDonald’s was adopting a longer-term approach to marketing and described short-term tactical campaigns, such as a new burger range or promotions, as “noise”.

“It’s nice, but noise, that’s all it is,” he said. “It doesn’t actually deliver anything except a two or three [week] window of growth so basically we had a business that was spiking,” he said. “We are trying to move away from just being busy to being much more strategic.”

He said the number of campaigns run by McDonald’s was “not sustainable” and would only work for three weeks of a six week campaign. After that it “would die pretty quickly”, he said.

“By week four or five we’d have people saying ‘what the hell is going on, you need to lift sales’. To have this sustained growth….there needs to be bigger and bolder initiatives that generally have an impact over time and are not just filling a window in the calendar.”

The marketing chief admitted the business had “not been as customer centric as we need to be” and had not put customers “at the heart of our decision making processes”.

Lollback labelled marketing as a “craft” and called for marketers to be “craftsmen”.

“Maybe some of us have forgotten that. Marketing is a craft, it’s not a science,” he said. “There is no doubt that with complexities in channels, the diversity of media and intensity of competition every day is different and challenging.”

Steve Jones


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