McDonald’s CMO: "It’s about step change transformation at the core"

Pippa Chambers
By Pippa Chambers | 23 March 2016
Deborah Wahl & Brad Rencher

McDonald's is mentioned every 1.5 seconds on social media, has two million opportunities to respond to customers and has an app with more 10 million downloads - those are just a few of the insights shared by its CMO Deborah Wahl, speaking at the Adobe Digital Marketing Summit.

Wahl explained how McDonald's has been on a digital transformation journey over the past 18 months - from launching its app and kiosk service to revamping menus and its core values. Adding that in relation to “mass personalisation”, it has made a good start but still has a lot more to do.

If you missed it, just last week it unveiled plans to turn iconic Happy Meal box transform into a VR headset – showing that it’s trying to move deeper into customer-driven digital connections.

Wahl explained that the business is on “a journey of complete transformation for the customer experience”, having first started with changes to the food element – shifting to free range eggs, adding healthier options to its salads - among other food tweaks.

“It’s been a step change of transformation at the core - one step after the other,” she says, adding that its recent shift to offering breakfast all day has been a huge success.

“All day breakfast was the biggest tangible moment of change for our customers - and what’s really exciting is that we are getting reported for that,” she explains.

“As a result we ended 2015 as the second highest performing stock on the Dow Jones and we had our highest Q4 income ever in the history of the company - and most importantly our franchisees had their highest levels of cash flow since 2010.”

She said McDonald’s, which has 26 million customers daily in the US, previously had almost no digital one-to-one interaction with its customers, but with the introduction of the app, which has more than 10 million users, and the new kiosks, it is boosting its presence in the growing digital space.

Wahl also discussed how the business carried out extensive research on what its customers wanted, which turned out to simply be 'offers'.

She stressed that the bigger gains will be from the practical, day-to-day optimisation as "that is what builds the business” – adding that while as a marketer you may want to just roll out all the fun exciting marketing ideas, you have to start with the core transformative basics first.

“People can look at differed brands and may say ‘oh they are behind’, but the most important thing is looking at what you can do first and where the biggest customer need is - which for us was offers on our app,” Wahl explained.

“So we thought let’s solve that, lets get into that. Yes we are going to the others things but at the right time and at the right moment – whereas you find that that takes a lot of discipline because if you are in marketing you love new ideas and you want to do something exciting – so you have to stay really disciplined.”

She added it’s about peeling back and not doing so much of the sexy stuff, but instead, looking at the day-to-day things and big changes that it can implement – such as looking at what’s happening in its Wi-Fi network.

“The bigger gains will actually be in that very practical day-to-day today optimisation – that’s what builds business.”

Have something to say on this? Share your views in the comments section below. Or if you have a news story or tip-off, drop us a line at

Sign up to the AdNews newsletter, like us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter for breaking stories and campaigns throughout the day.

Read more about these related brands, agencies and people

comments powered by Disqus