To coincide with International Women's Day, McDonald's made a controversial branding move. This morning, the chain posted a tweet that said, "Today, we flip our Golden Arches to celebrate the women who have chosen McDonald's to be a part of their story." That's right, this International Women's Day, you may notice that the iconic Golden Arches that grace storefronts, napkins, take-out bags, and more, has been turned upside down to look like a "W" — which we assume signifies the word woman.
While it might be eye-catching to catch a glimpse of this iconic logo turned on its head, simply because it's unexpected, the stunt, at best, feels like a nice but empty gesture and a way for the company to pat itself on the back. At its worst, it's insulting.
Today, we flip our Golden Arches to celebrate the women who have chosen McDonald's to be a part of their story, like the Williams family. In the U.S. we’re proud to share that 6 out of 10 restaurant managers are women. https://t.co/6z88OhjXpO pic.twitter.com/hXfOi3wWQf— McDonald's (@McDonalds) March 8, 2018
On the chain's official website, there is an entire page dedicated to International Women's Day. The first section, entitled "Why We're Celebrating," reads, "We recognize the extraordinary contribution of women. From employees and franchisees, to suppliers and community partners, to our customers, we are inspired by your strength and leadership." But, these are just words. The page also contains a video called "A Story of Inspiration," which features a franchise owner named Patricia Williams telling the story of buying her first franchise and growing her business.
The rest of the page highlights other women who work in various roles and at various levels at the company. We always enjoy reading about the career paths of different women, but here, it comes across like McDonald's is using these women as mascots for their International Women's Day "celebration" or as a way to prove how progressive the company is.
We also cannot ignore the amount of money McDonald's had to have spent on this whole campaign. In addition to actual store signs and logos on digital channels being changed to the upside down M, BusinessInsider reports that 100 U.S. locations of the chain received special packaging, bag stuffers, and crew uniforms today. Instead of putting on a show of how much it loves women, why wouldn't McDonald's have donated all that money used on the one-day-only branding to an organization that is actually helping women? Or, why not give a monetary reward to the women highlighted on the website? In a world where women's work is often not compensated in meaningful ways, that would have spoken volumes about the company's values.
McDonald's isn't the only fast food brand that is getting negative feedback after choosing to alter its branding for International Women's Day. BI reported that this year, KFC Malaysia swapped Colonel Sander's face for a woman's face. Apparently, the woman is Claudia Sanders, the colonel's wife. Last year, Burger King also rebranded as Burger Queen in China. McDonald's IWD stunt, however, is definitely getting the most hate on social media specifically due to controversies involving unfair wages and sexual harassment that have unfolded in recent years.
Surely #international womens day is something to be celebrated by doing something to support women like - I don’t know PAYING THEM EQUALLY rather than simply using it to garner publicity for your pathetic brand.— Jonathan Marsland (@JonMarsland1982) March 8, 2018
McDonalds and EasyJet - I’m looking at you!!!!!!
Offering International Women's Day bag stuffers and packaging makes the occasion and the message the company is trying to share feel disposable. We would have liked to have seen McDonald's take action that makes a more lasting impact.