McDonald's CEO Answers Questions About "Predatory Marketing"

McDonald's CEO Don Thompson addressed tough questions from stakeholders at the annual meeting, among them a nine-year-old girl.

Although the company has expanded its menu to offer more healthy items, members of an advocacy group at the meeting said it's not enough. At particular issue is the company's strategy of marketing directly to children through products such as Happy Meals. McDonald's has shrunk the size of fries in the meals and added apples, but the company has a long way to go, according to critics at the meeting. One request is for McDonald's to stop opening stores in hospitals.

As the girl said to Thompson, "It would be nice if you stopped trying to trick kids into wanting to eat your food all the time." In response, Thompson said, "We sell a lot of fruits and veggies and are trying to sell even more."

Big-mac-box-bottom-lg2During another exchange, Thompson was asked whether McDonald's targets African Americans, and he responded, "This one's kind of close to home. We do not have not, will not try to target people of color."  Thompson is an African American.

Thompson's other points include the following:

  • "We're not marketing to schools. We don't do that."
  • "We are not the cause of obesity. We are not marketing unjustly to kids. Ronald is not a bad guy. ... He's about fun, and I'd encourage you to let your kids have some fun, too."

Image source.

Discussion Starters:

  • Read McDonald's annual report. What messages about nutrition do you find? How could the company do a better job of communicating its points? 
  • How do you assess Thompson's responses to the questions? How did he do?