McDonald’s REALLY does not understand the Harry Potter theory of Marketing

I wrote a lengthy post yesterday that explained an approach that I use with a lot of clients I work with and businesses I run. It’s called “The Mirror of Erised Marketing and Branding Theory.”

In short, what I do with clients/businesses, is determine if the product or service they offer reflects an image back to the customer that makes the customer feel more realized for having used the product or service.

The inspiration for this is the scene in Harry Potter where Harry stumbles upon a magical mirror that reflects Harry with his parents. The name of the mirror is The Mirror of Erised. “Erised” is “Desire” spelled backwards/reflected.

Great companies reflect an image back at the customer of what the customer desires.

When we were coming up with the marketing approach for TuneCore, for instance, we realized that we weren’t really selling the core competency of putting an artist’s work on iTunes (others were and could do that), what we worked to do was to show that by using TuneCore the artists would see themselves as a more actualized/realized musician. We effectuated this through not only providing the core services, but also by providing education, and clearly articulating our values.

ALL great, durable companies do this. No exceptions.

Yesterday, I discussed how Chipotle reinforced their Mirror by giving the customer their recipe for guacamole. Because the recipe is simple and made with nothing but fresh ingredients, this emphasized Chipotle’s value of transparency, and shone a reflection back at the customer that reinforced the idea that by going to Chipotle they feel more realized about themselves: more healthy, more connected to the food they eat…in short, they feel like a more realized version of themselves – they see themselves as they desire. This forges a very tight bond with Chipotle.

McDonald’s on the other hand can not determine what they want to shine back at their customer.

This report (and I promise, I wrote yesterday’s article prior to hearing this) illustrates just how clueless they are.

McDonald’s has decided that they want to be a “modern, progressive, burger company.” As the commentator says [paraphrasing]: “there are already a lot of those out there: Five Guys, Shake Shack, etc.”

The bigger problem, however, is what the CEO, STEVE EASTERBROOK, said during the McDonald’s conference call: “…All of these phases together will culminate in our ability to be seen as a modern, progressive burger company.”

Easterbrook, with all due respect, is missing the point. The problem is not how customers see McDonald’s, it’s how customer’s see themselves when they interact with McDonald’s that matters.

Until McDonald’s figures out how to make a customer who goes to McDonald’s feel like a better version of themselves – the way Harry Potter feels when he gazes into the Mirror of Erised – they will continue to flail and engage in strange random acts of improvement that only confuse customers:

This leaves them competing on price and features, which leads to commoditization, and a race to the bottom, and obsoleteness.

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