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The continuing evolution of McDonalds

I took my son to McDonalds last week to treat him to an ice cream sundae.

I’ve been known to hit the drive-thru here and there for a coffee or a “treat” for myself, but I hadn’t actually been inside a McDonalds in years.

I had to do a double-take when I walked through the door and what greeted me was not the bright colors, fluorescent lights, and plastic booths and counters of my childhood, but instead a serene, inviting place featuring Earth-toned walls and floors, wooden tables, and a waterfall flowing serenely over an image of those ever-familiar golden arches.

It just so happens that I’d found myself in one of 280 restaurants that McDonalds renovated last year, and I read later that the company will spend a cool billion dollars renovating the rest of its U.S. locations between now and 2015.

Despite not patronizing McDonalds all that often, I have to give kudos to a company – espeically one that is so well known and established – that is able to recognize what its customers want and adapt accordingly.

From the introduction of healthier options to its menu over the past few years such as salads and grilled chicken for adults, and milk and Apple Dippers for kids, to its McCafe line of premium coffee drinks, McDonalds understands what consumers today are looking for, and they’re delivering.

This move toward offering a more welcoming, comfortable atmosphere is one way McDonalds is trying its hand at experiential marketing, and going beyond its traditional advertising outreach. By appealing to a wider range of customers’ eyes, ears, and minds, rather than simply their taste buds, McDonalds is making a move to draw new people in, keep them in their restaurants longer, and enable those people to build a connection with the brand.

What do you think: smart move, or billion dollar mistake? Will this move drive sales and enhance the image of McDonald’s, even as backlash against fast food grows? Will this change influence your behavior?


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