Created in France around 2009, McDonald’s claims the anthropomorphized box “brings fun and excitement to kids’ meals, while also serving as a persona for balanced and wholesome eating. ” Despite the purportedly noble aspirations of promoting healthier eating among children, Happy is entering the country bruised and beleaguered.
When U.S. McDonald’s shared a preview of the character on Twitter, you might imagine, the people of the United States said more than hello to Happy. Just reading the first handful of responses on Twitter:
“That! Is Scary!”, “Oh, this was a mistake, McDonald’s”; “Why is he in pain?”, “Do you eat it? Or does it eat you?” ; “A McStake”; “This looks so scary”; ”
A recent poll by Mashable shows a vast majority of viewers think the mascot is terrifying
Kids react to new mascot (NY magazine)
In lieu of these events and PR, A spokeswoman for McDonald’s responded in a statement with dry confidence: “Not all comments reflect the broader view.” Accurately translated, haters gonna hate.
Perception vs Reality in Brand Development
While we appreciate the effort, there is one detail McDonald’s Happy Meal marketing strategists just aren’t getting when it comes down to changing their brand. The reason big brands become big brands is because of an early well-established mission for the company, which in this case was to provide fast greasy meals for people on the go. When it comes to branding, perception always wins over reality. So, even though McDonald’s reality is they are trying hard to make healthier, more up-scale food, the direct opposite perception about the brand is ingrained in the mind of the consumers. The brand has practically become synonymous with unhealthy food, and changing that fact in peoples mind is going to take a lot more than a happy meal mascot.
From a broader approach, the standard bystander will see happy’s treatment and view on social media as a complete failure and horrible brand persona. Now while it’s true Happy’s career as an “ambassador” to kids and healthy eating is practically over. His role as a viral campaign however, is booming. Ever since the twitter release everyone seems to be partaking in the so called “roast” and this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Generating loads of traffic and sparking numerous discussions and memes, is a great campaign focus in today’s digital age. Recently, online marketplace DesignCrowd challenged its graphic design community to a Photoshop contest that would drop the much-maligned mascot into horror movie posters. Creating a whole community that spreads the word and creates viral images.
With all this exposure and popularity online who knows, maybe adults will order happy meals just to see this so called “terrifying” mascot
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