Your article "McRisky" (Cover Story, Oct. 21) would have been more aptly titled "McMarketing." If one makes the questionable assumption that McDonald's can overcome the significant operational problems of making a 180-degree turn from standardization to customization, it will find itself wading through a radical shift in terms of its marketing strategy.
The essence of McDonald's marketing challenge over the next few years will be effective positioning. McDonald's, like many other fast-food operations, has made the invalid assumption that positioning is what you do to a product. Positioning is what you do to the mind of the consumer in terms of perceptions and images. Mickey D's has had some success at objective positioning, i.e., positioning itself according to physical attri butes of features such as its Big Mac, convenient locations, and right color scheme. But they have forgotten a basic marketing fundamental -- no company sells products. What a company sells is the benefits that those products deliver. For example, McDonald's does not sell hamburgers, pizzas, or salad. What it sells is convenience, price/value, variety, and health. The organization's marketing strategy needs to reflect this.
Professor of Hospitality, Marketing & Research
University of Nevada
My concern is that McDonald's trying a little bit of this and a little bit of that will cause it to lose its image. This in addition to endangering its renowned efficiency and its store-to-store consistency.
William S. Birnbaum
Costa Mesa, Calif.
Recently, I placed an order at McDonald's and watched the front-line employees run into each other like the Keystone Kops as each attempted to fill the order he or she had taken. Then, when I received my food -- a burger, fries, and drink -- the total came to nearly $5. "Wait," I thought to myself, "this is supposed to be McDonald's." Rivals such as Taco Bell and Wendy's are newer, cleaner, and offer better values -- and service can be faster since a single employee handles the transaction while others fill the order.
McDonald's must be careful not to make one of the most common mistakes seen in companies where growth has flattened: throwing away the basic business to gamble on new products and new ventures.
Although it is frequently tried by companies with flattening growth, it often becomes a "new products/new ventures phase." During such a phase, the company experiments with many new areas, never really understanding what it takes to succeed. Eventually, after losing large sums of money on new ventures, the company goes back to its basic business -- hopefully before the basic business deteriorates.
La Grange Park, Ill.