McDonald's Laughs Off Criticism Embedded In April Fool's Joke

from the inappropriate-responses dept

On April 1st, Grist posted an April Fools story about McDonald's that claimed the fast food chain would no longer follow through with its global composting initiative after scientists at the University of California-Berkeley found that none of the items on McDonald's menu were suitable for composting -- and none of the "food" would break down even after 1,000 years.

The story was certainly inspired by a recent blog post by Joann Bruso claiming that the Happy Meal she had purchased and placed on a shelf for an entire year looked virtually unchanged -- no mold, no decomposition or smells. In this case, McDonald's reacted by posting a response on its website, calling Bruso's story an urban legend.

Apparently, many people fell for Grist's joke because it just seemed so plausible. Allison Arieff, a writer for GOOD and The New York Times, tweeted the news -- and just minutes later, McDonald's Twitter contact tweeted back a very odd reply:
Arieff: "McDonald's scraps composting program because the items on their menu WON'T DECOMPOSE. Yikes. (via@edibleIA,@edibleSF)"

Molly at McDonald's: "They say April Fools jokes are a form of flattery! This one had us laughing too! ^Mol"
Here's a story that's further spreading the idea that the food at McDonald's is so unnatural that it won't even decompose, and what does McDonald's do? Laugh it off, of course. Was this the right response? Well, it was definitely not one that people were expecting. McDonald's had a chance to address the criticism, but instead they chose to just brush it off. Maybe they didn't want to open a can of worms, and since they're so big, they figured that they could get away with it. And they're probably right -- the number of people who were turned off by their response (or even aware of the story) was likely to be insignificant for the fast food giant.

However, it's likely a different story for smaller businesses. They really need to pay attention to and deliver what their customers want. It's probably not a good idea to attempt to brush off customer complaints with "humor." Perhaps even McDonald's should be more careful with its tweets now that everything they say will be archived for posterity. We'll see how long it takes for tweets to decompose.

Filed Under: jokes, pr spin
Companies: mcdonalds

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  1. icon
    another mike (profile), 21 Apr 2010 @ 3:40pm

    what are McDonald's options here?

    They could launch a massive advertising blitz focused on their USDA Nutritional Facts. That would be a wasted effort because no one cares. We don't eat McDonalds' food because it's healthy; we eat it because it's the most popular fast food burgers on the planet. Eventually 'Delicious and Nutritious' would be included in a list of the most worthless ad campaigns in history.
    Unleash the lawyers? Both bloggers would be sued for defamation, there'd be DMCA takedown notices, the lawyers would get stinking rich, and we'd be reading this as a Streisand Effect article.
    MickeyD's could have just completely ignored the original article. It might make an Aprils' Fools prank round-up in a couple months and be utterly forgotten. That would give Ronald McDonald a net neutral effect and a resounding 'meh'.
    Instead, McDonalds decided to play like they were in on the joke. Now they're seen as having a sense of humor and not being just a faceless corporate monstrosity. And then when the best pranks article is written, people will actually remember this one. This was the only correct choice.

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