McDonalds Deals with Public Relations Problems in France

One of the challenges facing multinational companies operating in foreign markets is that various groups such as consumers, government, the media,and other relevant publics may feel threatened by their presence. Resentment and concerns over their presence in a country can make public relations problems and crisis situations even more difficult for large multinational companies, as McDonald's has learned from problems it has encountered in France over the past few years.

McDonald's opened its first restaurant in France in 1979 and now has more than 800 outlets across the country. As the company expanded in France, it made efforts to appear as French as possible, dressing up its sandwiches with cheeses and herbs and adapting its menu to better suit the tastes of local consumers. However, in the late 90s McDonald's began receiving negative publicity from ongoing anti-American protests by angry French farmers. The farmers' movement was triggered by a World Trade Organization ruling ordering Europe to accept hormone-fed beef produced in the United States and by sanctions the U.S. government imposed on a host of imported French foods, including Roquefort cheese, truffles, and Dijon mustard. The farmers' protests have included the dumping of tons of animal manure and rotting vegetables at McDonald's restaurants all over France and have attracted mass-media attention in the country.

Additional protests against McDonald's were led by Jose Bove,a French citizen who has been described as a professional militant and is known for headline-grabbing acts of civil disobedience. Bove became a folk hero to many when he led a group that vandalized a partially built McDonald's restaurant in the French town of Millau to protest the U.S. import tax on Roquefort cheese and other European agricultural products. He also lashed out at what he called the global proliferation of "le malbouf," or junk food.A recent book he wrote with fellow farm unionist Francois Dufour, The World Is Not For Sale: Farmers against Junk Food, has been translated into eight languages.

Initially McDonald's took a low-key approach to the protests and attacks, declining to press charges for vandalism against its restaurants and placing posters in its restaurants explaining that McDonald's is a major partner of the French agricultural sector. However, in fall 1999 McDonald's France began countering the negative publicity by launching a "Made in France" corporate advertising campaign in 60 regional daily newspapers across the country. The ads inform consumers that while the brand may be American, the products served in France's 750 McDonald's outlets are French in origin. The ads underscore McDonald's policy of buying French products and its role in France's agricultural sector, while thanking consumers who have remained loyal. In response to the farmers' concerns, McDonald's also began substituting locally produced specialties targeted by the U.S. sanctions, such as duck breast and Roquefort cheese, for traditional ingredients in the company's Big Mac and cheeseburger menu items.

French government officials, while deploring violence against McDonald's, have done little, if anything, to improve the company's image in the country. The French prime minister declared that he thought Jose Bove raised valid questions about McDonald's, while the Socialist minister of agriculture publicly referred to the United States as the home of the world's worst food. McDonald's problems in France continued into the new millennium, as an employee in one of the company's restaurants in Brittany was killed in a bombing in April 2000.

McDonald's France executives have asked their compatriots to understand that the company is essentially a French company staffed by industrious employees and to stop using it as a symbol in a fight against U.S. trade sanctions. The company has also pointed to its efforts to ensure that supplies of its products are obtained locally in France and are of high quality. It appears that the company's public relations efforts have been succeeding, as sales in France increased by

more than 9 percent in 2001, making McDonald's French operation the fastest growing in Europe.

While sales have increased, the company's uneasy relationship with the French encountered yet another problem in May 2002 when McDonald's France placed a full-page "advertorial" in the magazine Femme Actuelle headlined "McDonald's—Is It Causing Obesity in Children?" The ad was run in response to a report showing that child obesity in France had doubled to 16 percent in 10 years. In the copy of the ad McDonald's France stated that "The number of visits to its outlets should be limited." Forbidding children from eating fast food would be counterproductive. However, there is no reason to eat excessive amounts of junk food, nor go more than once a week to McDonalds." As might be expected, the ad provoked a furious response from

McDonald's American corporate headquarters in Chicago, which issued a statement noting that the ad was the opinion of only one consultant and the company does not share this view.

McDonald's can only hope that the latest controversy does not add to its problems in France. To the French, nothing is as symbolic as food, and many have already decided that McDonald's symbolizes globally homogenized tastes and the "McDomination" of its market.

Sources: Marian Burros,"McDonald's France Says Slow Down on the Fast Food," New York Times, Oct.30, 2002, p. C7; David Woodruff, "Just Say No: Jose Bove Has Made a Career as a Professional Agitator; His Latest Target: Globalization," The Wall Street Journal, Oct. 1,2001, p. Al; Larry Speer,"McDonald's Self Defense Is Its French Connection," Advertising Age, Sept. 13,1999, p. 26.

part of their integrated marketing communications programs. Marketers are also using mass-media advertising to drive consumers to their websites and provide them with detailed information about their products and services, encourage them to participate in online promotions, or allow them to make purchases. Exhibit 20-21 shows a page from the Japanese website the Gillette Company developed for its Mach3 shaving system. A number of global business-to-business marketers such as Dell Computer, IBM, Xerox, and Hewlett-Packard are using websites to provide customers with information and conduct business with them.

As the digital revolution continues, marketers will be making greater use of the Internet in their global as well as local IMC programs. However, they will also face some challenges with respect to the way they approach global marketing and branding. As more consumers worldwide have access to the same information and same brands via the World Wide Web, many marketers will have to rethink their strategies of producing the same product under different names and tailoring promotions to local markets. It is predicted that marketers will use more global brands and promotional campaigns to take advantage of the worldwide exposure that will be available through the Internet.

Mcdonalds Marketing Communications


Many U.S. companies are recognizing not only the opportunities but also the necessity of marketing their products and services internationally because of saturated markets and intense competition from both domestic and foreign competitors. Advertising and promotion are important parts of the international marketing program of a multinational corporation. Advertising is generally the most cost-effective way to communicate with buyers and create a market in other countries.

International marketers must carefully analyze the major environmental forces in each market where they compete, including economic, demographic, cultural, and political/ legal factors.These factors are important not only in assessing the potential of each country as a market but also in designing and implementing advertising and promotional programs.

In recent years, much attention has focused on global marketing, where a standard marketing proKey Terms

1. The opening vignette to the chapter discusses the requirements developed by the A. C. Nielsen Company to be on its global brand list. Do you think that a brand should have to meet these criteria in order to achieve global brand status? Why might marketers disagree with the requirements set by A. C. Nielsen?

2. Why are international markets so important to U.S. companies such as Starbucks, McDonald's and gram is used in all markets. Part of global marketing is global advertising, where the same basic advertising approach is used in all markets. Opponents of the global (standardized) approach argue that differences in culture, market and economic conditions, and consumer needs and wants make a universal approach to marketing and advertising impractical. Many companies use an in-between approach, standardizing their basic marketing strategy but localizing advertising messages to fit each market.

There are a number of important decision areas in the development of advertising and promotional programs for international markets.These include organization, agency selection, advertising research, creative strategy and execution, and media strategy and selection.

Sales promotion, personal selling, public relations,and Internet websites are also part of the promotional mix of international

Coca-Cola, as well as to European companies such as Nestlé, Unilever, and Nokia? Discuss the role of advertising and other forms of promotion in these companies' international marketing programs.

3. Discuss the importance of the economic environment in a country in evaluating its market potential. How do the economic conditions and factors impact the type of integrated marketing com marketers. Sales promotion programs usually must be adapted to local markets. Factors to consider include stage of market development, market maturity, consumer perceptions of promotional tools, trade structure, and legal restrictions and regulations. Personal selling is the most important element of some companies' international marketing programs, since it is their main form of contact with foreign customers. PR programs are also important to help international marketers develop and maintain favorable relationships with governments, media, and consumers in foreign countries. The use of the Internet as a marketing tool varies by region. In many countries, there are few Internet users and few local companies with websites. But as the number of consumers online grows, so too does the number of large international marketers using the Internet to support their ad campaigns.

direct broadcast by satellite (DBS), 689

munications program a company can use in a country?

4. Global Perspective 20-1 discusses how many multinational companies have begun focusing more attention on the 4 billion consumers who live in the remote, rural communities of developing countries. Discuss the challenges companies face in marketing their products to the world's poorest consumers. How do they have to balance-of-trade deficit, SS0

economic infrastructure, SS2

cultural values, SS5 global marketing, SS9 global advertising, SS9

pattern advertising, 674 localized advertising strategy, 684

Discussion Questions adapt their integrated marketing communication programs in selling to these consumers?

5. What are some of the cultural variables that marketers must consider in developing advertising and promotional programs in a foreign market? Choose one of these cultural variables and discuss how it has created a problem or challenge for a company in developing an advertising and promotional program in a specific country.

6. Discuss the arguments for and against the use of global marketing and advertising. What types of products and services are best suited for global advertising?

7. What is meant by the "think global,act local" approach to global marketing and advertising? Discuss some of the ways marketers can adapt their advertising to local markets.

8. What is meant by a global market segment? Provide an example of a company that has identified a global market segment and advertises its product or service the same way around the world to this market.

9. What are the three basic options a company has for organizing its international advertising and promotion function? Discuss the pros and cons of each.

10. Discuss the problems and challenges international marketers face in developing media strategies for foreign markets.

11. How would the planning and promotional program differ for a global brand versus a regional or local brand?

12. Discuss the role of public relations in the integrated marketing communications program for an international marketer. How would the role of public relations differ from advertising?

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  • michael
    How to improve public relation for McDonald's?
    4 years ago

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