Why can’t McDonald’s get Millennials right? (From the book: Actions Speak Louder Than Brand Pronouncements.)

Ronald McDonald Playing Guitar and the Guitar is French FriesThey can do whatever they want at South by Southwest this year. All anyone will remember is that they asked a band to play for free.

They can put kale on the menu.

They can run this really charming ad all they want…

…and we will enjoy it, but all it really does is say, “Remember how big we are—we can pay to license every single character you’ve ever had an emotional investment in. Don’t mess with us. We’re big.”

They can try spreading love at the Super Bowl. They can try being honest.

But when they mess up like they did at South by Southwest (and then snarkily suggest via hashtag that it’s a #slownewsday), or get caught recommending a second job as financial advice to employees, then just look like they’re pandering (like with this hipster McD experiment), Millennials get what’s up.

And in the end, McDonald’s unloving actions end up speaking louder than its approved-for-broadcast words.

As I point out in Selling Eating, people form their opinion of your restaurant based on all the evidence you provide, everything, whether you want them to or not. Especially now, with social media and conscience-minded Millennials, you can’t dictate which parts of your message people pay attention to.

The struggle continues.