Cardi B’s McDonald’s ad offends some franchisees…

Bloomberg — Some McDonald’s Corp. (MCD) franchisees are criticizing the fast-food chain for featuring rapper Cardi B in its advertising.

The Afro-Latina performer starred in a Super Bowl ad earlier this month featuring a meal for couples. These establishment owners say that linking a chain of restaurants that caters to families with an artist whose songs contain profanity and sexual content will hurt the brand.

These franchisees also say the association goes against the chain’s “Code of Golden Arches” of marketing guidelines for store owners and employees.

“According to a 2021 copy of the internal code reviewed by Bloomberg News, associations with celebrities and influencers that may damage our brand are not allowed due to the statements they have made or their position on certain issues. “Musical associations associated with content that includes offensive language in the lyrics” are also prohibited.

The Golden Arches Code, a global set of marketing, advertising, legal and trademark policies, says that all McDonald’s employees, franchisees, agencies and suppliers are responsible for ensuring full compliance with the code. It says that infringements endanger the brand, and that anything that does not comply with the policies established in the document must be withdrawn from its use. In the US, franchisees own nearly 95% of McDonald’s stores.

“It’s kind of a culture shock when you look at the McDonald’s brand over the years,” says Dick Adams, a former McDonald’s restaurant owner. and franchisee advisor. “Especially if you’re a franchisee and you’re in your 50s or 60s and you don’t have kids and you haven’t been exposed to any kind of these letters.”

Cardi B’s promotion includes a food package for two people. An ad featuring the artist and her partner, rapper Offset, reciting each other’s favorite McDonald’s orders aired during the NFL championship game on February 12. The meal includes two sandwiches – a cheeseburger and a Quarter Pounder with cheese – fries, two drinks and an apple pie.

“I’ve talked to a lot of franchisees who are concerned, but it’s good for sales and the company is behind it,” Adams said. He acknowledged that while there are some complaints, “I don’t think there’s a lot of pushback.”

McDonald’s says it is receiving support from owners and employees, and that its marketing partnerships are attracting a new generation of diners and driving sales. The company said it is always thoughtful and careful about what is posted on its channels, and careful to avoid language that could offend.

“We are focused on putting McDonald’s at the center of the culture,” Tariq Hassan, director of marketing and customer experience for the US market, said in a statement. “Cardi and Offset are an iconic couple who have their own tradition of date night at McDonald’s dating back years. We are proud to share a little piece of that.”

The Chicago-based company has been announcing so-called celebrity orders from celebrities including singer Mariah Carey and K-pop group BTS, part of an effort to invest in “new and culturally relevant approaches” to merchandising. Hassan said the artist collaborations have “significantly boosted business, both for the company and for our restaurant owner/operators.”

Shares of McDonald’s have barely changed this year, compared with a 3.4% gain for the S&P 500 Index.

While updating its image and attracting more diverse and younger customers is important to McDonald’s success, it’s also a careful balance, said Mark Kalinowski, president of Kalinowski Equity Research, which publishes McDonald’s franchisee survey results quarterly. .

McDonald’s “has been a family brand for decades, so it’s a challenge to manage that,” he said in an interview. “You want to remain family-friendly and at the same time appeal to the younger generations, which don’t necessarily match up.”

Kalinowski said he heard some McDonald’s owners were upset about selling Travis Scott’s celebrity food in 2020. The company credited the partnership with the black rapper and hip-hop star for boosting business – McDonald’s said Quarter sales Pounder doubled during the first week of the promotion. However, some franchisees were unhappy with the partnership because of the lyrics and vulgarities in Scott’s song, which they felt were out of sync with the brand, Kalinowski said.

“We don’t live in a society where everyone likes the same things,” Kalinowski says. “It’s really hard to please everyone.”

Representatives for Cardi B, Offset and Scott did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

McDonald’s is trying to diversify the ranks of its restaurant owners across the United States, where it has about 13,500 locations. In 2021, the chain promised to train and recruit more minority and women franchisees with a $250 million loan program to help finance loans to underrepresented groups. But the plan has faced backlash from a group of black McDonald’s owners, who have said the chain needs to do more to help reduce the inequities they face as current franchisees.

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