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How listening to fans can transform a brand

 McDonald’s got to know the haters and the business problems it had to solve, brands should focus on the consumers that love them.


In a behind-the-scenes chat between McDonald’s global CMO Morgan Flatley and Wieden+Kennedy’s global CEO, Neal Arthur spoke about how forgetting the haters and listening to fans unlocked a transformation for the brand.

What message do you want the audience to hear and act on from your talk?

Morgan Flatley: Focus on the fans who love your brand and consistently take calculated risks with your marketing.

What’s the one thing the industry should worry about right now?

Neil Arthur: I worry most about finding real audiences. I worry about finding real audiences. Where are we talking and finding real people and as a result having cultural conversations and getting brands into bigger spaces.

What are the hardest issues you’ve had to overcome in getting out of your own way?

Morgan: I tend to be risk averse and don’t naturally like to take big risks. But I’ve realized is just the power when you do. I also surround myself with people who I really trust when I get nervous. I have people that I’ll call to help me talk through the risk and that helps me feel more confident.

How does listening to passionate fans lead to more creative decisions?

Neil: When you listen to fans, any idea that comes out of that is born of truth. When we’re sharing work with Morgan and the McDonald’s team, when it comes from a place of love, there’s more traction and opportunity and less risk. When we present an idea that comes from a genuine space, it really takes the risk down because it’s true. All we’re doing is shining a light on it.

Earlier this year, Morgan, you said “there’s a gift to creativity, that is not my gift. My gift is helping support it, spark it, protect it and let it grow.” How do you do this?

Morgan: I say yes. I try to say yes to things that make me uncomfortable. This is part of the power of talking about fans. When I sit and react to creative work. I’m not reaction to it as a business problem but how would a fan react, how would they feel about it? I really try to say yes, especially when you have a trusted partner like W+K.

Neil: Morgan responds emotionally. This is how I feel about the work, which is kind of everything. The minute you make it pragmatic, it inherently makes for a smaller, less interesting conversation.

What’s your definition of creativity?

Morgan: I think it’s huge and broad. There’s creativity around marketing, business and driving growth, which is what I’m talking about. Creativity makes me feel something and ultimately drives them to some sort of action and connects with people.

Neil: We try not to talk about creativity at W+K because as an agency, it can feel self-serving, and indulgent. We think about it this way: What’s an idea that’s going to change the way people see a brand or see the world? 


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