Weekly Business Insights from Top Ten Business Magazines | Week 306 | Strategy & Business Model Section | 4

Extractive summaries and key takeaways from the articles curated from TOP TEN BUSINESS MAGAZINES to promote informed business decision-making | Week 306 | July 21-27 , 2023

The Myth of the Mainstream

By Marcus Collins | MIT Sloan Management Review | July 24, 2023

Listen to the Extractive Summary of the Article

For years, McDonald’s seemed to embody everything that was wrong with the American diet. The brand had become a symbol of food choices that were driving escalating rates of obesity and hypertension.  The company spent more than a decade trying to fight this perception among American consumers by targeting them with messaging about its updated menu, which offered healthier alternatives more in line with contemporary diet trends — but to no avail. Year over year, McDonald’s sales declined, and its brand perception continued to spiral downward.

Finally, the company decided to go on the offensive. Instead of combating the opposition’s hate and attempting to win over those in the middle, McDonald’s decided to focus on its fans — the people who self-identify as McDonald’s devotees despite the vitriol directed at the brand. The result of this strategy was a 10.4% increase in global revenue for McDonald’s from 2018 to 2021 and the return of dormant customers: more than a quarter of those who came in to buy those who hadn’t visited the chain in over a year. Seemingly overnight, McDonald’s went from being a cautionary tale to the darling of brand marketing and a case study for advertising effectiveness.

What’s going on here? Conventional wisdom would tell us that in a world of increasingly polarized opinions, our best bet is to appease the middle, if only because that’s where the majority of the market is. That also seems like a safe bet to many companies, as a middle-of-the-road position is less likely to alienate potential customers. But McDonald’s demonstrated what can happen when you dismiss this conventional approach. Instead of trying to speak to the mass market, it chose a side. It chose to embrace the love instead, fighting the hate, and it abandoned the notion of enticing the large but indifferent middle of the market. By doing so, McDonald’s marketing efforts activated a legion of fans who not only consumed but also won over others as well. What McDonald’s realized is an important lesson for contemporary marketers: If you want to get people to move, you must choose a side. The notion that you can win by playing to the middle is a misleading myth.

2 key takeaways from the article

  1. Don’t focus on the middle: Focus on the people who see the world the way you do. Choose a side, and they will convince the bystanders, the passive, the indifferent.  In a polarized scenario, the chances of marketers getting people to move are far greater when we activate the collective of the willing as opposed to trying to convince detractors or even persuade the indifferent.
  2. If you want to get people to move, you must choose a side. The notion that you can win by playing to the middle is a misleading myth.

Full Article


Topics:  Strategy, Marketing

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