Any seasoned HR professional will understand the value of listening to employees. They are, after all, the lifeblood of any successful organisation. And in the world of fast food, no company epitomises this more than McDonald’s. We are sure that McDonald’s employees strongly contribute to brand development.
Known worldwide for its golden arches, McDonald’s brand has been built, in part, by the valuable insights and contributions from its millions of frontline workers.
So in this article we will delve into how McDonald’s staff, with their innovative ideas and customer insights, have played a pivotal role in shaping the brand development and its success.
What is brand development
Brand development is the process of creating and strengthening a brand’s professional identity. It’s a long-term strategy that involves creating a unique and consistent brand message that resonates with customers. It is also something that differentiates your product or service in the market, and promotes loyalty.
In an organisation, brand development should not be a task reserved solely for the marketing department. It should be an all-inclusive activity, involving every staff member.
In fact, frontline employees can often provide the most valuable insights into customer behaviour and preferences. And that can naturally lead to innovative ideas for brand development.
McDonald’s Big Mac – the birth of a legend
One of the most famous examples of employee contributions to McDonald’s brand development is the Big Mac.
Introduced by franchisee Jim Delligatti in 1967, the Big Mac was a direct response to customer demand for a bigger, meatier burger. This innovation not only led to the creation of McDonald’s best-selling product, but also significantly influenced the brand’s image.
It helped to position McDonald’s as a restaurant that listens and responds to its customers’ desires.
For HR professionals, this example underscores the importance of creating a culture that encourages frontline staff to share their ideas and observations. Empowering your employees can lead to incredible innovations that not only meet customer demands but also distinguish your brand in a crowded marketplace.
The Happy Meal – special catering to kids
Another standout example of employee-driven brand development at McDonald’s is the Happy Meal.
This children’s meal, complete with a toy, was first introduced by Kansas City franchisee Bob Bernstein in 1979. Bernstein recognized that children had a significant influence on their parents’ dining choices and that catering specifically to this demographic could be lucrative.
The Happy Meal not only revolutionised McDonald’s menu, but it also significantly impacted the brand’s identity.
Then McDonald’s became synonymous with family-friendly dining, enhancing customer loyalty and market reach. This shows the importance of understanding your customer demographics and catering to their specific needs, an insight often brought forward by frontline staff.
The McCafe as branching into beverages
The McCafe, McDonald’s line of premium coffee drinks, is another example of an innovation sparked by staff insights. McDonald’s recognized that many of its customers enjoyed a coffee with their meal, but were seeking a higher-quality offering than what was currently available. Thus, the McCafe was born, allowing McDonald’s to compete with dedicated coffee shops and further broaden its customer base.
This case serves as a reminder for HR professionals to encourage cross-department collaboration. Frontline staff who interact with customers daily are in an ideal position to spot changing consumer trends or new potential markets.
Drive-thru concept changed the dining experience
Expanding on the notion of convenience, the McDonald’s Drive-Thru concept, although not exclusively a McDonald’s innovation, was heavily popularised by the brand.
In fact, the concept was first adopted by McDonald’s at the suggestion of an Arizona franchisee. They noticed that a significant percentage of his customers were soldiers who preferred to stay in their cars due to their military uniforms. This observation led to the establishment of McDonald’s first drive-thru in 1975.
The drive-thru innovation drastically changed the fast food landscape, reinforcing McDonald’s reputation for speed and convenience. This shift shows how frontline staff, by noticing and understanding customers’ habits and preferences, can initiate changes that redefine brand identity.
HR professionals should encourage and facilitate open dialogue with employees about their observations of customer behaviour. This could be done through regular feedback sessions or digital platforms where employees can share their thoughts and insights.
So understanding customer habits directly from the frontline can lead to powerful, brand-defining innovations.
International menu items for embracing diversity
Another way McDonald’s staff has contributed to brand development is through the creation of menu items that cater to local tastes in different countries.
From the Chicken Maharaja Mac in India, to the Teriyaki McBurger in Japan, these unique items reflect the diversity of McDonald’s global customer base and show the company’s respect for cultural differences.
For global brands, it’s crucial to foster a culturally inclusive work environment where employees feel their perspectives are valued. HR departments should provide diversity and inclusion training to help employees understand and appreciate different cultures.
Also, creating channels for employees to voice their ideas about catering to local market needs can result in products or services that further distinguish the brand.
The Employee Scholarship Program
Beyond product innovations, McDonald’s also demonstrates how caring for employees can positively influence brand image.
The Archways to Opportunity program, initiated by McDonald’s, offers educational assistance to eligible employees. This contributes to a positive work environment and also enhances McDonald’s brand image as a socially responsible company.
HR professionals should consider the wider impact of employee benefits on brand image. Offering programs that support employees’ personal and professional growth can not only improve employee retention, but also bolster the company’s reputation.
Always remember, a brand isn’t just about products or services – it’s also about the company’s values and how it treats its people.
Recommendations for HR professionals
As seen from these examples, frontline employees play a critical role in brand development.
Here are some recommendations for HR professionals to harness this potential:
- Create an open culture – encourage employees to share their ideas and observations. This can be achieved through suggestion boxes, regular team meetings, or anonymous surveys.
- Reward innovation – recognize and reward employees who contribute to brand development. This could be through financial incentives, public recognition, or opportunities for career advancement.
- Provide training – equip your staff with the knowledge and skills they need to understand your customers and market trends. This could involve regular training sessions, online courses, or on-the-job coaching.
- Encourage cross-department collaboration – facilitate communication and collaboration between different departments. Frontline staff have valuable insights that could benefit marketing, product development, and strategic planning teams.
By tapping into the potential of your frontline staff, you can drive brand development, enhance customer loyalty, and ultimately, ensure the success and growth of your organisation.
Overall McDonald’s serves as a shining example of the power of listening to your employees and incorporating their insights into your brand development strategy.
It is clear to see that McDonald’s serves as a powerful case study on how employees’ ideas can lead to significant brand innovations. All of these examples highlight the importance of maintaining an open dialogue with frontline staff, who are a valuable source of insights into customer preferences and behaviour.
And by fostering a culture that values employee contributions, HR professionals can play a key role in enhancing brand development, customer loyalty, and ultimately, the company’s success.
As we have seen McDonald’s show us, sometimes, the next big idea might just come from the people serving the customers directly.