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From chasing culture to creating it: Lessons from McDonald’s creative strategy

How McDonald’s embraced fan insights to reignite their brand’s relevance, driving nine consecutive quarters of sales growth and influencing their business at every level.

When McDonald’s embraced Fan Truths as the centerpiece of their creative strategy, it not only revitalized the brand’s relevance but also generated nine consecutive quarters of same-store sales growth. This shift also had a broader impact on the business, influencing areas ranging from product innovation and menu development to restaurant design and crew training.

During the session, Marques Gartrell, creative director at Wieden+Kennedy, and Tariq Hassan, CMO of McDonald’s USA, first walked through their ABE framework:

  • Align = creative effectiveness agenda
  • Build = structure and processes (incentives and training)
  • Embed = through the organize (not just marketing)

Collaboration emerged as a recurring theme at Cannes, and this session demonstrated the power of collaboration within a defined process. When done effectively, it not only yields creative success but also delivers tangible business results.

McDonald’s recognized the need to reconnect with their fans and developed “fan truths” by listening to their customers, even creating a coffee table book based on these insights. This approach became the foundation of their creative strategy and inspired their global platform. It serves as a reminder that it’s never too late to reconnect with fans to build a brand and foster a vibrant culture.

A notable example shared was a video showing someone stealing a Travis Scott McDonald’s poster, with the brief humorously acknowledging the act as “shamelessly stolen.” By infusing unique and relatable elements into creative work, brands can capture attention, evoke emotions, and create a more engaging and memorable experience for their audience. It emphasizes the significance of paying attention to reactions and feedback and adjusting future approaches accordingly.

In summary, the session underscored the value of following a structured framework, fostering collaboration, reconnecting with customers, and infusing personality into creative strategies. By incorporating these elements, brands can enhance creative effectiveness, drive business results, foster brand loyalty and deliver a more engaging overall brand experience.

Marcin Zerek


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