Contemporary Issues in Marketing

Contemporary Issues in Marketing


Undeniably, the future of the fast food sector is promising and prospective. Currently, the industry is experiencing significant and impressive growth. Alongside the development experienced in the industry are stiff competition, change, and innovation, which have become inevitable for companies within the industry to maintain their customer base. The negative publicity on the effect of the processed foods on people has significantly affected the food firms. Multiple initiatives have been enacted to address obesity that is attributed to the consumption of fast foods. For these reasons, companies within the fast food sector are often experimenting with new strategies and techniques, which are aimed at attracting consumers and subsequently retaining the loyalty of their existing ones. Mainly, this achieved through marketing techniques and strategies employed by companies. The essay focuses on the McDonalds advertising campaigns and contemporary issues in marketing.

Background Information

One of the companies that are doing well in the fast food industry is McDonald’s. McDonald’s is presently the leading provider of food service as well as the leading chain of hamburger fast food eateries globally (Alliance n.d). The company is running more than 35000 eateries in about 125 nations around the globe, serving nearly 50 million consumers daily (Bullmore & Moore 2017). Started in the United States in 1940, the company has grown faster to be among the world’s famous fast food vendors globally (Facella & Genn 2009). As of 2012, McDonald’s had risen to be the second largest privately managed restaurant in the world after Wal-Mart before rising to become the world’s largest privately owned company globally (Serazio 2018). McDonald’s offers a wide array of foods. It offers breakfast items, chicken, burgers, fries, candy, soft drinks, milk, and sirloin sandwiches. Other products offered by the company include yogurt, manually mixed vegetables, fish, smoothies, wraps, and potatoes.

In its attempts to maintain its existing customers and effectively attract new customers, McDonald’s employs various marketing strategies. The market is dynamic prompting the firms to be creative in fostering their competitive advantage.  According to Alliance (n.d), McDonald’s marketing strategies and techniques have concentrated upon McDonald’s overall experience as opposed to its products alone. The company enjoys a broad customer base because of its quality services. The reason for the use of images in their adverts has often been to portray warmth as well as a real slice of daily life. McDonald’s television adverts, displaying various individuals participating in everyday activities, often function to imitate the time and season during which the advert is developed (Jayaram et al. 2015). In the history of the company, McDonald’s has not been using comparisons or negative ads about their business rivals. It adverts, instead, concentrate upon itself.

An example is McDonald’s grief-focused television (TV) spot. In the advert that was aimed at promoting the giant fast food company’s Fillet-O-Fish within the United Kingdom (UK), McDonald’s features a son and his mother talking regarding his dead father. The 90-second TV spot, which was produced by Leo Burnett, a London-based promoting company, depicts a boy asking his mother several questions regarding his dead father: “Was he good at football? Did he have blue eyes?” The mother responds that his dad was awesome, had shiny shoes, was loved by women, and was an expert sportsman. The boy, who is depicted as a total loser, looks sad and wonders whether he and his father had some commonalities. The mother’s responses to the boy imply that the son and the late dada have little in common. Their physical appearance, eye color, and interests are all dissimilar.  The boy remains moody until they get to the restaurant and place an order for a Fillet-O-Fish and the mother says to him, “That was your dad’s favorite too.” This answer insinuates that the only commonality between the son and the late father is their love for Fillet-O-Fish.

Ethical, Technological and Consumer Culture Issues

During an era fraught with social and political tension, brands are fast leaning into promotional strategies that shoot for resonance, sometimes via humor, more commonly by addressing tough issues, resulting in spectacular successes or failures (Ahmed et al. 2014). Some companies also employ campaigns that deliver the needed and proper emotional effects while remaining factual and accurate regarding a particular brand being advertised (Bullmore & Moore 2017). Consumers’ increasing demand for thematic and narrative weight in their promotions is eventually forcing conversations regarding how to improve the general quality of a campaign, which may assist in winning digital challenges and threats such as blockers (Facella & Genn 2009). According to industrial research, these nuances are particularly beneficial in engaging young demographic cohorts that have grown up during a cynical globalized and digital environment yet are equally extra receptive to messages that are centered about topics such as diversity  (Featherstone 2007). In their ad, the fast food giant depicted a boy trying to cope up with his father’s death. However, the advert was immediately criticized on ethical grounds. In an interview with the BBC, McDonald’s spokesman said that the advert was by no means intended at “upsetting” viewers, but was meant to “highlight the role McDonald’s has played in our customers’ everyday lives – both in good and difficult times” (Schopen 2017, p. 1).

Various views were shared about the advert, some saying that the ad implied that the boy had not many commonalities with his late dad save for the shared enjoyment of the McDonald’s Filet-O-Fish and others stating that the campaign was misleading since they were thought to think that the advert was a charity ad (Parsons et al. 2017; Gilchrist 2017). Other charity campaigners equally reacted that the ad was exploitative. The UK bereavement charity Grief Encounter explained to the BBC that they received several “countless calls” from many upset viewers who had been affected by the ad. Dr. Shelley Gilbert, the president and founder of the charity told the BBC that McDonald had in the past tried to communicate to their audience through emotionally driven TV campaigns. Nonetheless, Dr. Shelley said that McDonald’s 90-seconds TV spot was intended at exploiting childhood grief as a way of connecting with young individuals along with surviving parents alike, vainly since the ad mentioned that there is a brand can cure all manner of illnesses with just a single meal. Studies have shown that one out of 29 teenagers have lost their siblings or parents by the time they attain the age of 16 in the UK (Lui, 2017). After several criticisms that went viral over social media and mainstream media, McDonald’s was forced to apologize to their audience and proceeded to pull down the ad, with McDonald’s spokesperson telling The Guardian that they were explicitly sorry that the promotion might have upset those individuals who are most crucial to them, their customers. The ad was generally cynical and shameful, claiming that the ad exploited children’s emotional trauma in McDonald’s bid to sell their sandwiches. People reacted to the announcement variedly. According to a study that was done by Listen and Learn Research (2019), out of the people that were considered by the researchers, 32% were found to dislike the ad, 17 liked it, and 51% were ambivalent about it. Conversely, the study established that only 6% of the participants were found to claim that the ad was offensive. The study also indicated that just 3% of the persons who took part in the study called for the banning of the announcement, while 13% of the participants defended the ad against what they perceived as an aggressive reaction to the ad. Additionally, most of the study’s participants who never liked the ad did so since they held the thought that it was not very good, and not because it was offensive. Of the total number of people who did not like the ad, 33% found the tone and language that was used in the ad to be too cynical and that they never liked it when their emotions were used in selling burgers, 26% of them thought that the announcement was poor taste, yet not offensive, and there was need for distinction, and lastly 21% believed that the ad was just mediocre in the sense that it was poorly executed, silly, naïve, or just mainly not good.

From another angle, McDonald’s aimed at addressing technological issues surrounding advertising. The advertisement lasts 90 seconds. The short period allowed the company’s audience to view the advert and deduce its relevance in as far as the company’s goal in using the advert was concerned. Similarly, the ad was made available over social media (like Google, Facebook, and Twitter among others) and mainstream media (like TV). Through these media, the company was able to reach as many people as possible. In fact, within two weeks, the advert had attracted the highest number of views according to the U.K. Advertising Standards Authority (Listen & Learn Research 2019). Companies employ video advertising because most consumers watch videos.  Statistics show that significant percentage of the world’s current consumers watch videos, with about 93% of business-to-business prospects consuming online videos, about 4 billion videos are being viewed over YouTube daily, and approximately 30% of the world’s shoppers purchasing products and services after watching videos (Kottasová 2017). As such, McDonald’s employed video technology to ensure that it reached as many people as possible. A 90-seconds video is also easy to share and therefore do well among phone users. McDonald’s also employed the video to help them communicate a considerable quantity of information within a short time to a large pool of its target consumers.

Regarding consumer culture, the ad equally did well in as far as McDonald’s was concerned. According to McDonald’s spokesperson, the announcement was aimed at “highlight the role McDonald’s has played in our customers’ everyday lives – both in good and difficult times” (Lui 2017, p. 1). Clearly, the ad shows that the company is keen on developing products that satisfy their clients’ tastes and preferences at any time of their lives. The advert also depicts fish, an aspect of white meat, which is considered somewhat healthier relative to red meats.

While there are mixed feelings regarding this ad, the same has both strengths and weaknesses. First, from the ad, it is evident that the father to the son did not die any recently. As such, the advert was in no way designed to bring to memory the father’s death. However, the bad reviews within the advert, inadequately balanced by the unifying factors between the son and the later father, allowed room for it to be misinterpreted as being about sorrow or bereavement (Li 2017). Kirkpatrick (2017) adds that the intention of the script was significantly erased by the dull colors, unpleasing dialogue, and sentimental music. These cumulatively were technological challenges about the ad.

Another issue regarding the ad is that the advert did not fully engage the right stakeholders. Siddique (2017) states that when addressing an issue such the one for which McDonald’s meant in its ad, the company needed to be more both thoughtful and brave. The talks on grief experiences, according to Gilchrist (2017), would have assisted in bring them onboard despite the ethical issues that sounded the ad.  Having a viewpoint on a humanoid experience is beneficial. However, the failure to engage outside the brand makes it artificial. McDonald’s could have adopted this approach by successfully creating an overall awareness of their brand and tactfully drawing the target people’s attention to another thing altogether.

The ad’s execution also went too far away from nostalgia and towards grief. This, according to Schopen (2017), was compounded by the manner I which the mum is depicted comparing the son unfavorably and his late father, the punches coming as (“your dad was … cuddly, tall, big. 2. Big hands. 3 always smart, never scruffy. 4 shining shoes. 5. Captain. 6. A right catch. 7. Good at football. 8. Loved by many women. 9. Brown eyes) (Kirkpatrick 2017). This comparison jars and ultimately makes the Fillet-O-Fisk seem too cynical, too weak.

Recommendations to Better McDonald’s Campaigns In The Future

Presently, the world is more connected and globalized, thus allowing brands to find several numerous avenues to engage with their intended audience and consumers, regardless of whether the consumers are interested or not in them or their products within their mainstream media and social spaces. The consumers are susceptible to the message portrayed on the various adverts. Therefore, it is imperative for organizations to employ due diligence and professionalism in formulating their adverts. If a brand, as Lui (2017) observes, does any unethical practice, such as advertising, not only will people get upset but they will also react to the advertisement. The survival and future growth of a firm depend on the consumer’s perspective on the products. There are set outlines, and brands do not have the right to cross the set lines because, by the end of the day, an advert is all about ‘selling.’ Due to unethical engagements, a brand can significantly suffer in terms of its sales volume since an act of immoral conduct distrusts consumers from a company. Multiple firms deal with the same products. Therefore, consumers can quickly shift to alternatives.

Notwithstanding the fact that McDonald’s is one of the major fast food restaurants, making the world’s well-known fast-food chain, the company does not have it easy concerning its marketing approaches. Many competitors are waiting to take advantage of any slight misunderstanding regarding the adverts for MacDonald’s products. With regard to the company’s grief-focused TV spot, Featherstone (2007) states that the video is shocking because of the poor verdict that it exhibits at best and it also revealed the company’s marketing team’ lacking tactics to effectively bridge the communication gap that existed between the company and its audience. Being creative in formulating the adverts is essential. However, ads should not infringe on the fundamental rights of the consumers.

From the literature, the following suggestions would be apt for consideration by McDonald to help them better address the technological, ethical, and consumer culture issues. First, there is a need that the company follows fundamental ethical, technological, and consumer culture problems. The survival of any company dealing with food, therefore, depends on the consumers’ tastes and preferences. This has caused a significant challenge upon marketers within the food industry, some of which have been forced to resort to unethical strategies, techniques, and practices that have generated several international discussions regarding marketing and ethical practices of the food sector. The increasing cases of obesity have prompted many health agencies to discourage the consumption of fast foods. Sherry and Fischer (2017) add that a healthy lifestyle is a demand and need for this present hour besides being the biggest threat to the fast food sector in the future.

Ethical considerations are essential in ensuring the firms do not infringe on the existing legislation. With the number of tourists increasing globally, there has been noted an increase in traditional and cultural ideas among nations, the advancement of communication, information technology, and infrastructure as a result of globalization, liberalization, and other factors. Along with other reasons, these determinants have turned the world into a universal village, increased the spread of potential middle-class individuals because of accessibility of throwaway income, and improved economy of nations compared to past years.

There are several recommendations that McDonald’s needs to take into consideration for a better future. First, the company needs to avoid focusing much on their goals. The management is supposed to have a broader perspective when drafting their adverts.  From the ad, and other advertisements that the company has used in the past, have been focused on promoting the quality of the company’s food over time. However, the advert regarding death that has no cause, it gives a significant number of people an opportunity to jump on the company’s means of poor health bandwagon. Death is a sensitive issue that affects all the people in different instances in life. Therefore, the remembrance of death brings back painful memories in the consumer’s lives.

Secondly, McDonald’s need to have adequate preparation when coming up with ads. This ad regards grief from a fast food firm. The company had good intentions, but the advert was not framed well framed to demystify any misconceptions from the critics.  If the company could have engaged in a little sharper performance besides having good public relation plans, the company could have taken advantage of the attention while simultaneously defending its place in the marketplace. Thirdly, McDonald needs to conduct research on the consumer’s perspectives and adjust according to the findings. Some critics jumped into the opportunity to bash and disparage McDonald’s, which made the ad controversial. A comprehensive review of social and mainstream media comments indicates that generally, the contentions scarcely deserved the space and name in the public domain. Therefore, the company should use social media to learn more about its audience. Similarly, McDonald’s should make sure that their campaigns are not misleading and confusing to their target customers as far as the social, health, and emotional benefits of the products they are promoting are concerned. In this regard, the company should ensure that its ads do not give room for misinterpretation depending on the ads’ executions. McDonald’s should ensure that they do not negatively portray other people, personalities, and their competitors in their campaigns and that their campaigns do not mention that consumers who buy their products are better than those who do not.

Another factor that McDonald’s needs to take into consideration for their future campaigns is that they should ensure that their fast foods are not accompanied by fake news. There is an increasing fear that companies currently fail to take firm viewpoints owing to the amplification that traditional and social media have upon nearly everything that happens now and that which gets a moment of some ‘noise’ from mainstream and online spaces (Kottasová 2017). Li (2017) explains that there is a general lack of real discussions against out-loud shouting and protesting against things. Outmoded media, according to Siddique (2017), the misleading information can worsen situations because they give voice to people on things.


There are numerous initiatives for the consumption of healthy meals in the society. However, the market for fast food has continued to grow over the years. There have been significant challenges posed by the association of lifestyle diseases with the consumption of processed foods.  McDonald is one of the dominant firms dealing in fast foods.  It has various marketing strategies for products, such as grief-focused TV spot campaigns, to promote its products. The market is dynamic. Therefore, it is imperative for the firm to formulate viable plans to ensure its products sell in the market. The firm should consider the ethical, technological and cultural determinants in its activities for long-term growth and survival.