McDonald’s announcement of marketing hires isn’t very meaty

mcdonaldsTroubled McDonald’s announced a new chief marketing officer and PR head. While the press release is as bland as a Big Mac with no secret sauce, the media swallowed it whole anyway.

Here’s the actual news:

  • McDonald’s hired Robert Gibbs, former Obama press secretary, as EVP, Global Chief Communications Officer (that is, head of PR).
  • It also hired Silvia Lagnado, former CMO of Bacardi, as EVP, Global Chief Marketing Officer.
  • Both will report to President and CEO Steve Easterbrook.

Executive hires demand a press release. My three bullets would cover it. But a release that short would raise questions, so they add a bunch of filler, like this:

“Robert and Silvia are both highly-respected, talented leaders who will bring a wealth of experience and outside perspective to McDonald’s as we build a more modern, progressive burger company,” said Easterbrook. “Returning excitement to our business proposition and brand is foundational to our turnaround plan, and Robert and Silvia – with their respective teams – will play critical roles in bringing this strategy to life.”

Like all press release quotes, this quote has no nutritional value. As the chart below from the Wall Street Journal shows, the company is in trouble. So there is a turnaround plan. But what is “a more modern, progressive burger company”? And the plan is to “[return] excitement to our business proposition”? The excitement certainly doesn’t start with this press release.

mcdonalds sales

McDonald’s has no obligation to say more, and it’s not. The rest of the release contains biographical facts I could easily assemble myself from Google and LinkedIn. (PR side note: when you hire senior people, work with them to update their LinkedIn profiles, which everyone is about to look at. McDonald’s obviously didn’t do that.)

Let’s turn to the media, whose job is to cut the crap and tell us what to think about this change: specifically, are these the right people to fix McDonald’s, and what are they likely to do?

Advertising Age and AdWeek regurgitate the same meaningless quote I showed above plus the same biographic details from the release.

PRWeek riffs about government spokespeople moving to the private sector, and adds “Gibbs could not be immediately reached for comment.”

The Wall Street Journal rehashes McDonald’s turnaround plans but has no idea how these hires might help.

The New York Times at least has fun pointing out that anti-obesity cheerleader Michelle Obama might wrinkle her nose at a former staffer going to a hamburger chain.

I’m still hungry. I want to hear how an ex-press secretary will deal with angry shareholders wondering where the sales went. I’d like to know more about the kind of excitement a liquor CMO — where the ads tend to be a bit racier — might bring to a burger joint. I’d like to understand the challenges of a global marketing role at a multinational company where local tastes and menus shift according to cultural differences.

Well, now I know why PR people put warmed over quotes in press releases. Because it makes it easy for media people to put the same bullshit into their stories.

Thanks to Gerry Corbett for serving this one up for me.

Photo: Birger King via Flickr

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