McDonald’s addresses fast food anxiety by taking consumers behind the scenes

Aiming to address a range of consumer anxieties about fast food—exactly how it’s made and with what ingredients, etc.—McDonald’s has been on a transparency kick in several markets. On our sister blog, we recently wrote about an Australian TV documentary that the brand sponsored, McDonald’s Gets Grilled, which showed six consumers touring various company operations (from farm to factory to retail), sometimes asking challenging questions. In the U.K., McDonald’s recently retooled its five-year-old transparency-focused site,, into What Makes McDonald’s, because “there are still lots of myths out there about McDonald’s, and lots of things that people simply don’t know about us,” a U.K. marketing VP told Marketing magazine. The site includes articles and videos that take consumers behind the scenes of company operations.

In Canada, invites consumers to ask whatever questions they have, promising to answer “even the tough ones.” Questions touch on a range of issues, such as pink slime, chemicals in Big Macs and conditions that chickens are raised in. Two weeks ago the brand generated buzz after posting a video response to a question about why the food looks different in advertising. The director of marketing for McDonald’s Canada takes viewers through the food-styling process, explaining why various tricks and tweaks are applied to the basic burger. Consumers responded to the brand’s “unwrapping the process” (one of our 100 Things to Watch in 2012): The video generated a few million YouTube views in a matter of days.

Competitive pressures are forcing manufacturers and retailers to take transparency to the max—as we noted in one of our 10 Trends for 2010, Maximum Disclosure—revealing ever more about everything from nutritional data to sourcing, as well as the people and processes behind the brand. The ranks of the curious (and anxious) consumer keep growing, though in many cases the simple fact of disclosure will matter more than the specific information revealed.

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