Just in time for Australia Day, McDonald’s Australia has announced that it’s changing the name of 13 restaurants to “Macca’s”, the nickname given it by Australian burger-eaters. Revised signage will remain in place until the end of January as part of a highly researched campaign that must be worth its weight in golden arches for the press coverage it has generated.
By adopting its own nickname, McDonald’s is acting the adopted Australian. “What better way to show Aussies how proud we are to be a part of the Australian community than change our store signs to the name the community has given us?” declared Mark Lollback, the company’s chief marketing officer in Australia.
The campaign is unusual for the global giant, as it counters the policy of uniform branding that has long marked it out (even though menus vary). Part of the answer is that the brand is now so recognisable that it can be tampered with, without losing any recognition factor. However, the reasons for doing so in Australia are highly specific and the campaign is unlikely to be replicated elsewhere.
The Aussie territory is perceived as being culturally unique and, sited in the Asian Pacific region, geographically isolated from other western societies. With McDonald’s own survey stating that 55% of Australians already use the term Macca’s and Australia Day as its focus, the temporary rebranding must have seemed a safe bet for a limited campaign in a ring-fenced region.
This attempt to get matey also demonstrates a move towards a more social brand presence. Uniquely in Australia, it’s likely that a huge percentage of the burger chain’s younger customer base has been identifying the brand as Macca’s for their entire lives. In their tweens, teens and twenties, these customers fit the demographic for the biggest users of social media. And what is the Macca’s campaign, if not a social conversation?
It’s possible that McDonald’s had little choice but to take this unique step, for this territory is unique in other ways. Their closest competitor is Hungry Jacks, aka ‘Jack’s’. The sole franchisee of the other US global giant, Burger King, Hungry Jack’s describes itself as “Proudly Australian”.
And yet, the management of this regional rebranding campaign hasn’t been a 100% success for McDonald’s. The difficulty is that a social media using audience tends to be anything but geographically isolated. The down-to-earth Aussie fan is also quick to spot a PR Stunt by a ‘blow-in’ – especially a multinational, billion-dollar blow-in.
When McDonald’s made the celebratory announcement on its Facebook page: “Here’s to the one country in the world that calls McDonald’s, Macca’s”, the responses weren’t wholly positive.
“Hey Macca, lets go to Jacks,” commented one fan. “Been to America, heard Maccas. Your campaign is now invalid,” added another. “Germans call it Meccas, which sounds the same,” contributed yet another.
But still worse were the many comments pointing out something that should have been obvious to the marketing team from the start: New Zealanders call the restaurants Macca’s, too.