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McDonald's Corporation is the largest fast-food operator in the World and was originally formed in 1955 after Ray Kroc pitched the idea of opening up several restaurants based on the original owned by Dick and Mac McDonald. McDonald's went public in 1965 and introduced its flagship product, the Big Mac, in 1968. Today, McDonald's operates more than 30,000 restaurants in over 100 countries and have one of the world's most widely known brand names. McDonald's sales hit $57 billion company-wide and over $25 billion in the United States in 2006 (S&P).
The main target customer for McDonald's includes parents with young children, young children, business customers, and teenagers. Perhaps the most obvious marketing for McDonald's is its' marketing towards children and the parents of young children. Ronald McDonald was first introduced in 1963 and marked the beginning of their focus on young children as a critical part of their ongoing business. Parents like to visit McDonald's because it is a treat for the kids, and the kids enjoy the cartoon like atmosphere. McDonald's also targets business customers as a part of their core business. Business customers may stop during the workday and can count on fast service, and consistently good food. Another major target of McDonald's marketing is to teens. Teens find the value menu especially appealing and McDonald's markets their restaurants as a cool place to meet with their friends and to work (The Times 100).
The menu at McDonald's typically consists of hamburgers, chicken sandwiches, salads, drinks, shakes, and a recent influx of healthier alternatives. McDonald's also is widely known for their breakfast menu, which consists of sandwiches, pancakes, French toast, hash browns, and breakfast drinks. Since McDonald's appeals to such a wide audience, it must constantly re-evaluate its menu depending on feedback and market research. McDonald's expends considerable resources to update its menu and introduce new products in order to be more in tune with its target audience (The Times 100).
McDonald's also focuses on the perception of value within it line of products and therefore takes care to price its menu items accordingly. Different products are priced differently depending on which target audience those items appeal to most. An extensive value menu is an essential part of any fast-food menu in recent years. The prices and products within the value menu can prove to be areas that will make or break a fast-food companies' year depending on the competitions value menus.
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McDonald's use various marketing tools for the promotion of its products. McDonald's uses television, radio, customer mailings, point of sale displays, direct mail, and frequent sales promotions. The marketing for its products mainly depends on the stage of a particular product in the product lifecycle (The Times 100). New products tend to get more marketing dollars and consumer exposure. As well as focusing it marketing on particular products or consumers, McDonald's always has an extensive national marketing strategy that it changes from time to time. These national campaigns, which usually become synonymous with certain catch phrases, are geared towards changing it image as its customers change and the corporations focus changes. McDonald's utilizes a variety of distribution points to establish ties with it consumers, not just the restaurants themselves. They may sponsor community events, establish relationships with other businesses such as gas stations or schools, and they have a presence on the web.
The cooperative environment of McDonald's is quite large. Groups that have a vested interest in the success of the firm include: 465,000 employees, 900,000 stockholders, farmers, suppliers, and the communities in which they operate. Marketers, advertising firms, market researchers, product developers, and financing companies also fair well when McDonald's does well. In fact the public and concern over public health and welfare has developed into a primary concern for the fast food industry.
The competitive environment for McDonald's is quite extensive and highly competitive. The main competitors of McDonald's include: Wendy's, Burger King, Taco Bell, KFC, Hardees, and many others. The fast food market is highly saturated and the barrier to entry is very high. Most of the competitors in the industry are well established and are able to achieve efficiencies and quality that new entrants may find impossible to achieve. The fast food like many others has trouble during economic slow-downs and does well during periods of economic booms.
The social, political, and legal environment of the fast food industry is of particular interest in recent years. Cultural attitudes and beliefs have changed significantly in the last twenty years. As the health of American consumers becomes more troubled, and obesity reaches epidemic proportions, the fast food industry has become the target of policymakers attempting to legislate health. Fast food is now seen as one of the main contributors to heart disease, diabetes, and obesity (Abdollah 1). Fast food corporations have been forced to change their images and shift their menu offerings into a more health conscious selection. The competitive strategies in the industry have reflected changes in customer values and tastes to some extent at McDonald's and Wendy's, but some companies such as KFC and Taco Bell have lagged behind and are slow to change.
As the public has become more concerned with public health in recent years, politicians have increasingly looked towards legislation as solutions to the problem. In the last couple of years, many local governments including that of New York City have voted for legislation banning trans fat in restaurants (Gallagher 1). Legislatures in California have been looking into the idea of health zoning, which is legislature that would restrict the number of new fast food establishments within certain problem areas of Los Angeles (Abdollah 1). Legislators and school systems have also increasingly looked at food within schools and the relationships that fast food companies have in providing food for students.
My personal experience with fast food has been limited to Wendy's restaurants in recent years. Although many substitutes exist for Wendy's, I have been a loyal customer since childhood as my father is a franchisee. I have also worked at Wendy's through high school and like my father choose Wendy's because of their consistent quality, good products, and fast service. Now that I am older I continue to be a customer because of the healthier alternatives they now offer, although I don't always make the healthiest of choices and sometimes regret going with less healthier items on the menu.
McDonald's currently faces a dynamic time within the history of the fast food industry. Social beliefs and values regarding health and fast food have changed significantly and McDonald's must change with the times in order to continue its success. In order for Jack Greenberg to grow sales, profits, and market share, McDonald's must stick to its strengths, which include detailed market research, and product development in order to continually offer the most beneficial product mixes that stay in touch with changing customer tastes. They will continue to have an increasing amount of potential customers and may be able to capitalize on an increasing amount of health conscious consumers that still need a fast, friendly experience. McDonald's must continue to innovate and change as consumers and their values change. They must also be aware of the innovations and actions of their competition. McDonald's must take special care to cater to each of the segments within its market by staying in touch with each type of group within it market.
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