Food Green Marketing

How McDonald’s is losing the plot with Fresh Fruit Fridays


For cynical marketers a sustainability benefit is easy to find, and all kinds of organisations try to crowbar their product into what I call Green territory. However reluctantly an environment-threatening ingredient is removed, for example, you can soon be claiming your product is ‘now even greener’.

While this very morning I heard a radio execution promoting Free Fruit Friday. For even McDonald’s, engaged in what would appear to be the Sisyphean task of portraying its food as healthy, now seems to be positioning itself as a purveyor of health food. It has a requirement for ‘safe, sustainable supply sources for its burger meat’ for example.

Mc SustainabilityOn its websites you will find calorie counters, information about allergens, and laudable declarations about sustainability. See here from the UK site.

Striving for a sustainable future
At McDonald’s we recognise our responsibility to protect and preserve the environment for future generations to come. Our goal is simple, all of our activities are centred around the key priorities of reduce, reuse, recycle and redesign with the aim to use less energy.

While I admire the sheer energy of all this. Is this a sensible response to falling global sales? I wonder. The fact is that however much McDonald’s professes its green and health-promoting qualities, people simply don’t believe it. Their burgers are evidently loved by millions, but surely not for their health promoting attributes. They are a tasty, guilty pleasure.

McDonald’s is a prime example of a corporation’s marketing losing the plot by occupying a territory that simply doesn’t belong to them or ring true.  While I’m not suggesting it should not continue to pull up its socks on sustainability and health, leading with this as the main marketing motif is a costly error.

sustainability and rail travel

For the article I wrote about the Southern Railway’s booth of many wonders during the Brighton Festival – and its implications for sustainability- click here.

At least I got a joke into it, which is pretty good going I’d say.

One little booth, one giant leap for sustainability

There are some ideas which when viewed retrospectively sound obvious. For example, when Percy Shaw invented cats eyes in 1934 to help people drive in foggy conditions, nobody seemed much interested, till future Prime Minister Jim Callaghan took them up for British roads in 1947 – and they became ubiquitous.

What On Track and Southern Railways are doing seems simple. In fact it’s a forehead slapping no-brainer. It’s the idea of linking the way you get to a place – the railway – with what you are going to do there, i.e visit The Brighton Festival. This, after all, is a festival with a growing reputation internationally and a flagship event for Brighton. And the modest booth pictured at Brighton Station is the first step in making this link explicit. It the beginning of an attempt to join the dots between travel, sustainability and your destination.

On Track are trying to promote the fact that simply by choosing to board a train rather than drive, you are actually doing something good for the planet. You can zoom down from London to Brighton knowing that you’ve a mouse’s carbon footprint. Crucially, you are already making a difference.

This is important. There is nothing more paralysing than guilt and hopelessness. Show people the everyday things they can do to make a difference, and pow! you have begun to nudge people towards a tipping point in their behavior.

And Brighton, of course, is one of the most sustainably minded cities in the UK, (don’t take my word for it, have a look at this interview I did with Thurstan Crockett Brighton’s sustainability guru). The Festival is part of the Brighton sustainability mix.

Watch this space.

back On Track

Another interview this morning, for On Track. This time on the phone. Fortunately my interviewee Thurstan Crockett, Brighton’s Head of Sustainability Environmental Policy,was a former journalist and interviewed very well.

When people are masters of their own brief, it is much easier just to step back and let them download. They, after all, know far more about the subject than you do. I learned lots, such as that Brighton was recognised last year by Forum for the Future as the most sustainable city in the UK, or that there is an ambition for Brighton to be the first city to eliminate plastic bags.

My main focus was to make sure the interviewee appeared as a fully rounded person. Nobody wants to hear the thoughts of job title – they wan’t to hear what a real person thinks.

While I prefer face to face, the best thing about a phone interview is that of course the moment you put the phone down you can start typing, and the conversation is still fresh in your mind.

The rest of the day I spent sending off a manuscript for a giftbook idea I have, and writing its proposal, covering letter etc. Tiresome, but absolutely key. Now it is up to the Gods.