Wednesday, December 9, 2009

McDonald's in French is "McDo"

This morning a news item about the recession hitting McDonald's caught my eye. I'm sure the piece is meant for those who indulge in the daily ritual of sniffing after signs of economic recovery and/or further deterioration, but I am not one of those. My only thought on skimming the article was "Right about now, someone at Mickey D's HQ is saying, 'Thank God for the French.' "

After successfully battling beaucoup de resistance from labor interests, aesthetes and farmers, McDonald's ("McDo" en Francais) has 1,000 locations in France. If memory serves, France is roughly the size of Texas -- which, it seems, had 1,041 restaurants back in 2004. But those numbers only tell part of the story -- according to this article, the Louvre location is the most profitable in the world. Also, the French spend more per visit than Americans and linger over their meals, just as they would in a bistro.

But how did this seemingly incongruous thing come to pass? The short answer appears to be marketing. Le Big Mac knew that in order to win the hearts and minds of the French, they would have to placate the country's protest-loving farmers, lest they use mountains of potatoes to block the entrances of touts les McDo's. This article details the story of McDonald's in France nicely, and the most telling details, I think, are that 1) the man largely responsible for the success of McDo in France is in fact French, and 2) since 2001, McDonald's has had a large display at the weeklong Salon d'Agriculture, an event meant to showcase the people and products of French farms. McDonald's mission there was not to pass out samples of frites, but to tell people that 75% of the produce used in French McDonald's restaurants comes from France.

Marketing-wise, this was brilliant not only because of its visceral appeal to the pride of the general populace, but because it was a pointed message to French farmers, who at the time rabidly, publicly supported a protester who'd vandalized a McDo in 1999. They'd been enjoying the economic benefits of selling their crops to McDo's while criticizing them. And now everyone who happened by the McDo booth at the Salon d'Agriculture would know the farmers been biting the hand that bought their food.

Zut alors! Or as we say here in the U.S., D'oh!

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