Thursday, May 9

McDonald's Decides to Tweet

I always say that marketing is about making good decisions ... there's a hot debate raging right now about McDonald's decision to reach out to "Ohio kidnap" hero Charles Ramsey.

If you don't know the story, Charles was eating food from McDonald's when he realized that the kidnap victims needed help.  He pretty much single-handedly helped those women escape.  After much encouragement online, McDonald's finally reached out to Charles, via Twitter, celebrating him and saying that they'd be in touch.

Many are calling McDonald's action inappropriate, others saying that it's great that the brand is recognizing this sudden hero.

Surely it's a fine line how and if brands should enter a sensitive storyline.  We've seen it repeatedly now with the bombings in Boston, Hurricane Sandy, and the shooting of Trayvon Martin who was holding a bag of Skittles.  Sometimes it's just completely inappropriate to join the discussion and other times it's almost mandatory.  The line is fine, it constantly moves, and it's completely invisible!

Given the fact that so many people prompted McDonald's to respond, however, I believe that the brand did the right thing by reaching out and offering their congratulations.  Whether they will do more than that, they say is a private matter ... appropriately so.  Others feel that the brand is just taking advantage of the situation and trying to steal the spotlight.

I can see both sides of the argument, but I strongly believe that you should listen to your customers.  In this case their customers wanted McDonald's to do something.  We're living in an era where brands are living right along beside us, online and offline, and they are a part of our community.  The good brands are behaving appropriately as members of the community.  With encouragement from the community, McDonald's did just that.

Here's an article from USAToday which highlights the debate, including my point of view (along with an interview with Charles Ramsey).

I'd love to hear what you think.  Did McDonald's do the right thing?  What's your experience?  Jim.

Jim Joseph
- President, Cohn & Wolfe NA
- Author, The Experience Effect
- Professor, NYU
- Contributor, Entrepreneur

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