Case Studies

Brand Turnaround Story

Reclaiming the hearts of the British public to turn a
brand around and deliver over a decade of growth

Our relationship with McDonald’s has seen us embark on a journey to make them not just the UK’s biggest restaurant brand, but also it’s favourite. Creating social acceptability that has made an international pariah feel as British as fish and chips.


The Business Challenge

In 2006 McDonald’s found itself in a perfect storm. Negative publicity engulfed the brand, from Supersize Me, to the Obesity Crisis, to McLawsuits. For the first time in its history UK sales fell, and scores for its two most important brand measures, Affinity and Trust, were at an all-time low. The brand had lost sight of what mattered most to its customers. We needed to restore people’s love and trust of the McDonald’s brand.


The Solution

We set about defining how we could recapture the heart of the nation. We started with research, which showed that McDonald’s worst performing brand attributes were the most important drivers of brand advocacy in the category – perceptions of food quality, and customers’ affinity for the brand. To bring the brand back to health we would not only need to increase peoples’ trust in it, but also get people to feel love for it again.

In our conversations with customers a role for the brand became clear. In a world that’s becoming increasingly hectic, pressured and complex – McDonald’s provides a simple and reassuring moment of ‘feel good’.

Brand Turnaround Story


This led us to a new brand proposition, which remains a north star for the brand today: Making delicious feel-good moments easy for everyone. The new proposition put customers at the heart of the business again. To bring this proposition to life, and address the barriers that were inhibiting growth, we developed a new communications framework – the ‘Pillar Model’ – which sets out four pillars of communication designed to drive the brand forward;  Value, Variety, Affinity and Trust.

Each pillar has a specific task and strategic approach, underpinned by a single brand proposition and coherent warm, human tone of voice. We started focusing on rebuilding customer trust via myth-busting product truths and showcasing the re-invigorated McDonald’s products and menu. We reminded consumers of the most relevant and best-loved aspects of their relationship with the brand: its democracy, ubiquity and favourite, iconic core menu items – elements that hadn’t featured in the brand’s communications for several years.

This Pillar Model approach informs everything from annual marketing planning to communications output, including successes such as ‘Reindeer Ready’ and ‘Welcome Back’.


The Results

Our work on McDonald’s has helped deliver long term growth of sales and guests. We’ve helped them respond to changing customer needs and in doing so, we’ve re-kindled love with the nation to become the UKs most loved restaurant brand.

We’ve enjoyed long term brand perception uplifts in Trust and Affinity, which has helped deliver 53 consecutive quarters of growth for the brand. Trust scores have risen to the highest levels ever, the brand is now number 1 for Value in its category and is currently enjoying its highest ever market share.