The Tricky Blog!

What I Learned From The Fast Food Industry About Marketing

Posted in Uncategorized by trickyd313 on November 29, 2010

An early 1900’s American businessman said something to the effect of the following:  “In order to become rich, one must find and sell a product that gets consumed in its usage, so that consumers can repeatedly by that product over and over again.”  I’m not sure if this quote originated with one of the oil magnates J. Paul Getty, John D. Rockefeller or from industrialist Andrew Carnegie. In fact, I’m pretty sure that I have screwed up the original quote but have captured it’s essence as written here. I first heard this quote while watching a documentary on the history channel some years ago. The point of the saying is that to have continuing wealth, one must sell items such as toilet paper and toothpaste. When this quote was made I don’t think that the author thought of food as that product however, the McDonald’s Company did.

Ray Kroc, founder of the McDonald’s Company–whom was heavily influenced by the Disney Company’s business model–decided to take the concept of that quote one step further. The additional step was to find a target audience, market to that audience, thereby creating a life long fan of the brand. This group that is targeted would become surrogate advertisers and create secondary customers to use these products through repeat business over the years. The group that McDonald’s targets–YOUR KIDS! I was able to learn these skills and tactics when I attended a McDonald’s University management seminar in early 2002. There was a module of instruction called Client for Life and another called Raving Fans (named after the popular book by management expert Ken Blanchard.) In the book and the seminar one learns that providing exceptional customer service and catering to your customers needs, is the best way to create these repeat customers. This in itself is not a bad thing because virtually everyone wants and expects great service when they are paying for it. But there seems to be something else going on within this concept as it applies to the fast food industry enticing kids to use their products.

In the United States, we as Americans attempt to shield children from the influences of sex, drugs, and violence. This is especially true when it comes to the images that we see on movie screens, television screen and broadcast radio. Why is that?  It’s because children are very susceptible to the images that are seen and heard in these media formats. While children are protected from negative influences in the media, there is no protection from fast food and other industries that targets our children with the products that they sell. Many of these products are dangerous and contribute to causing various illnesses such as diabetes and obesity. There have been lawsuits filed in attempts to force corporation to not market to children but those attempts have failed leaving Americas kids to be preyed upon by these major corporations.

These corporations have even invaded the last place that you would expect. Americas public school system. Being a life long Detroiter, I know the cash strapped public school system could benefit from an injection of capital from a wealthy contributor. However I am conflicted when it comes to these companies advertising in schools. Do we want our children to have billboards, posters, table tents and other advertising material in a learning environment? I’ve already stated how impressionable these young minds are, so is this additional distraction from the learning process needed?  I think not! But the bigger issues is corporate child predators that spend billions of dollars a year on research, and focus groups to better learn how to entice your child, to move toward their products.

As I am writing this paragraph I am watching a commercial for the General Mills corporation’s breakfast cereal line. Boo Berry, Cocoa Puffs, Count Chocula, and Franken Berry are a few products that are being rebranded as containing whole grain–and therefore good for you. Now on is a GEICO commercial. Oh that cute little gecko. Too bad consumers don’t know that GEICO stands for Government Employees Insurance Company. This company and others us these mascots to gain trust among kids.  Joe the Camel is ban from ads because of the harmful product it represents but Ronald McDonald is more popular than Mickey Mouse.

The following is a list of some brands that I use. Apple, Chevy, Avery, Lexmark, Pep Boys, Best Buy, Folgers, Starbucks & Red Bull. I use these brands because of the quality or perceived quality of the product. Obviously, many of these companies do not have products that could be targeted toward children but notice that those companies that do, are absent from this list. As a parent those products would still be absent from this list. I would be lying to say that I don’t dine at McDonald’s from time to time. But I do not take my kids there. I attempt to not succumb to the tactics that these corporations use as well as those same tactics used by other industries.

I too am on a quest to become wealthy. The products or services that I offer to the public may fall into the category of a continuously consumed good or service as suggested earlier, however I can not picture myself using these cradle to the grave tactics to shop my wares.

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