Lessons from McDonald’s on why you need to sweat your distinctive assets.

By Amber Hudson and Luke Sklar

Ah the Happy Meal.  I can remember losing my little 7 year old mind over that simple red box.  Toys!  Fries!  Burger!  The good ol’ days.  Now kids have to fend off nightmares every time they think of the Happy Meal thanks to the new McDonald’s mascot.  Have you seen this thing?  It’s been around in France since 2009 and last week it was rolled out to the US.  The idea behind “Happy” is “a new animated Happy Meal character that brings fun and excitement to kids’ meals while also serving as an ambassador for balanced and wholesome eating.”


It looks like a new brand manager created it on PowerPoint.  At 2:00am.  After several pints with the boys.

The reaction on Twitter is nothing short of hilarious:

@McDonalds wait. Do the kids eat the Happy Meal, or does the Happy Meal eat the kids. #MyWhatBigTeethYouHave

@McDonalds So the box that children will be sticking their hands into has feet-sized teeth & an enormous fleshy tongue lurking inside.

Did @McDonalds dump Ronald McDonald for a demon-faced box?

Do you want a girl’s toy or a boy’s toy with your box of nightmares? #HappyMeal

I’m with slate.com on this one:  “…maybe that’s a bit of psychological trickery. Perhaps McDonald’s wants kids to associate healthy fare with the terror of looking into Happy’s gaping maw, thereby making them…more likely to want to eat relatively unthreatening chicken nuggets.”

EVERYTHING is visual; even more so in this era of video everywhere.  Never underestimate the power of a distinctive visual property:  you don’t need “Canadian Tire” with the triangle or “Nike” with the Swoosh (are his eyebrows supposed to be the Golden Arches?!?).  Interestingly, “I’m Lovin’ It” came from Germany and “Happy” from France.  We applaud their drive to leverage global assets. But they better be good!

McDonald’s needs Larry Light back.  In 2002 Mr. Light orchestrated one of the quickest and most successful brand turnarounds in the history of brand turnarounds.  Yet here we are again.    Maybe Mr. Thompson should give Larry a call.

Image courtesy of McDonald’s.