Sometimes, people make decisions that seem like a great idea at first. And most of the time, a majority of people around them agree that it may be a good idea too. But what if it doesn’t turn out as planned? What if they’ve made a mistake?
As citizens around the world are asked to stay at home and practise social distancing as we navigate this public health crisis, everyone is doing their best to encourage and comfort people, while working on business continuity plans. However, in their efforts to do the right thing, some corporations may have gone ahead with rather insensitive campaigns—even the big guns.
Parting of the Golden Arches
To promote social distancing in a light and fun manner, McDonald’s Brazil created a campaign that depicted the famous McD golden arches separated down the middle. Unfortunately, the move backfired and many netizens shared their thoughts on what they felt was a distasteful marketing campaign by one of the world’s largest fast food chains.
Why did this happen?
When you’re a huge business like McDonald’s, a marketing campaign like that isn’t going to cut it. A corporation that makes so much off Happy Meals can surely do better than that. Many felt that the fast food giant could have instead engaged in necessary action to lend a hand, i.e. giving out free burgers and food, donating to food drives, etc.
Sometimes, an ad or online campaign alone isn’t the best way to show your solidarity—especially if you know you can contribute far more.
They took down the ad immediately and issued an apology. I’m no fan of McD but I really felt bad for them.
So, what have we learnt from this and what could McDonald’s have done differently? Here are four ways we can do to improve the situation a little:
- Always put yourself in the other’s shoes
In McDonald’s case, their customer base is really wide. A way to think about it for the current situation is to focus on people who are forced to stay home, people who are fighting for their lives, people who have no homes at all, and people who are helping to curb the spread of the virus. Having a little empathy and kindness would have shifted the focus from marketing and creative needs (without actual action) to what they can actually offer and do for people in real need.
Remember, any sort of communications initiative starts with knowing who you’re talking to—with compassion, empathy and understanding of core needs. If more time is spent getting this right, the rest of the plan will be more focused and clear.
- Listen actively and without judgement
Sometimes, all we need to do is listen to the problems/issues that people are talking about without judging them, and then seek to find solutions. If we pay more attention to what is going on out there, we would probably know that there is a lack of information, lack of support for healthcare workers, and people who fear the possibility of running out of money or losing their jobs.
Listen to understand. When we do that, we’ll be able to see things from a different perspective, and this will influence how we find solutions that are impact-driven and useful.
Ask questions like, “How can we be a part of an active solution that can help people to get back on their feet? What can we do to contribute to needs, rather than push what we think may be right and in our best interest?”
How can we contribute actively, rather than passively creating marketing campaigns that only serve us?
It is possible. The innovation and response to help around the world has been mind-blowing. Anyone can make a difference, if they choose to do so.
- Find solutions that answer real world needs
Once we have an idea of what your customers/audience really need at this point, it’s time for some tangible solutions. Here’s where businesses can look into their core offerings and business DNA, and think about how to add value by doing what they do best.
If it can’t be directly related to the business, simply sponsoring or providing support to on-going initiatives is also a good way to help.
Perhaps something as simple as providing face masks for healthcare workers, or delivering free food for people who are living in impoverished situations is something McDonald’s could have thought about.
- Ensure your solutions are delivered where your audience ‘lives’
We cannot emphasise this enough—knowing where your audience is and how they interact with you the most is so important when rolling out solutions, especially online.
If your audience is mostly digital, first look at your data analytics and determine where your target audience lives the most—which platform are they on, and when?
Once you know that, try to schedule posts and communications around those times, and ensure the messages are relevant to them, helpful and engaging.
If you’re looking beyond digital and want to work directly with the community, determine again what you’re trying to solve and who will be the best person to enable it.
For example, would you need to send a letter to the local council to inform them that you’re volunteering to run a food donation drive? Is there an NGO you’d like to work with to sponsor the making of face masks and PPE suits? Or do you just want to drop off sponsored gloves and masks at a local hospital (who do you need to get in touch with)?
Always remember to find a channel that corresponds to your solution and audience, and ensure they’re a good match.
Bringing it all in
With that said, this article is not to bash the misdoings of McDonald’s. Mistakes are great if we learn something from them.
Sir Richard Branson said it right:
“Don’t be embarrassed by your failures. Learn from them and start again.”
This little incident from McDonald’s can teach us to always try to put ourselves in another’s shoes, have a little kindness when we listen to understand, and try to offer solutions that help solve real world problems.
When we do all four of the above right, then we can truly serve our community and its most urgent needs well.
. . .
At Illuminairre, we’re equally concerned about the future and our ability to ensure business continuity. However, we’ve also recognised a need for authentic communications and communications skills during these times after actively listening to conversations online, and through our friends and family. There is so much untruth, misinformation and fear right now in communications.
That’s why we felt guided to do more social media live sessions from now onwards, where we’ll be talking about specific issues that relate to authentic communications, sieving through facts and fluff, and providing more in-depth communications tips. We’re also offering one-off complimentary communications training sessions during these times for anyone who feels like they need a quick refresher or upskilling in communications.
Get in touch with us if you’d like to explore how to communicate authentically.