Lately, fast-food giant McDonald’s announced important sales drop on its home market and around the world. The only national market that seems to be thriving is France. In a country where quality food and high end gastronomy are almost a religion, how can the symbol of Fast Food keep encountering such a strong success? Lack of strong competition? Taste of young people for American way of life?
Well, yes…but not only. McDonald’s communication strategy in France has always been very smart. The marketing teams have done their homework, and figured out how to adapt their product and outgoing messages to appeal to French consumers. Because going global is always about thinking local, here are the 4 top secrets to McDonald’s success in France, which any international communication agency can use as a backbone to a successful export strategy.
1. Brand logo was smartly adjusted
Originally, McDonald’s colors are those of ketchup and mustard, red and yellow. First in France, and across Europe afterwards, McDonald’s swapped its traditional red backdrop for a deep hunter green, to promote a more eco-friendly image. Alongside, and in order not to be accused of green washing, French McDonald’s also worked on improving the quality of their offer: local producers, 100% beef patties…. In a country where American food is looked-down upon as Junk-Food and you can find delicious and cheep « Ham and cheese sandwiches » at every corner boulangerie, it is indeed important to communicate on quality and local produce to convince French consumers.
2. Products have been adapted to French taste
Ask Americans to enter a French McDonalds and taste their hamburgers and they’ll tell you: French McDonalds taste much better. The bread is made to match French taste, the meat 100% beef, the cheese tastes like cheese, the sauces mimick French traditional sauces, less additives and sugar… All in all, the value for the money is superior in France. You can now find fresh salads and even alcohol (beer) on the menu in every restaurant. Ironic, but McDonalds understood that the only way to make French people like American Food, was to make it taste less American.
3. Restaurant settings respond to French consumer habits
In France, McDonald’s restaurants have made a great effort on the quality of the settings. Design an decoration is very nice, clean and confortable sitting space, even a Mc Café where you can come and enjoy various types of coffee and muffins or croissants. Kids inside playgrounds are also planned in every new store. French people don’t just eat to satisfy a primary need, there is a whole social aspect in eating out with friends or family. They want to spend a good time, even if it’s just fast-food. At one time, there was even a discussion about offering « order at your table » service. Too far-reached this time…but at least, it illustrates the permanent effort they make to best meet local consumer habits.
Look at this adverstisment: every French between 5 and 99 y.o. knows exactly that this drawing refers to “Asterix and Obelix”, two of the most famous French comic heroes who have fought invaders off their very French piece of land since forever, and whose adventures always finish with a great feast. On this picture, this feast takes place in a McDonalds, which perfectly conveys the ideas McDonald’s wishes to communicate: McDonald’s is at the heart of French traditions, a place for great social events, with quality food and fun. Great idea marketers !!
Whichever your product or service, all in all, the rules to marketing abroad are just about the same as those of marketing on your home turf: know your clients, offer produce that meet their demand, create advertising that convey messages your clients want to hear and will be convinced by. Thinking that globalization has erased local differences is the most important mistakes any company wanting to market abroad can make. Your entire product and marketing strategy needs to be adapted to your new target. If you believe you need help to do so, get local professionals on your side. My French Communication Agency (www.my-french-communication-agency.com), an expert in international communication questions can help you pin-point the few important mistakes to avoid and build your local strategy to enter the French Market.