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McSwift: Brand Image of a Branded Person and a Franchise

Page history last edited by Griffin Davis 7 years, 6 months ago


McSwift: Brand Image of a Branded Person and a Franchise



By [Griffin Davis], McSwift: Marketing Analysis of Franchise vs Artist

            The team McSwift; Marketing analysis of Franchise versus Artist, did a research based project for a digital humanities based class at UC Santa Barbara that compared and contrasted the marketing strategies of a single person and a large corporation.  The authors of the team chose to focus on the music artist Taylor Swift as their example of a single person who could be considered a brand and the fast food corporation McDonalds. These two entities are very similar and are worthwhile of being studied side by side because they both have massive mainstream popularity as well as international appeal, began in the United States, and are considered pioneers in their fields. The objective of the group was to find out how each of these different entities marketed themselves specifically, whether there were overlapping similarities or drastic differences, and whether one of these giants could learn a valuable lesson from the other. Team McSwift hypothesized that the marketing of an individual, like Taylor Swift, relies more heavily on making a personal connection with the audience, whereas a massive company’s marketing success depends largely on their ability to connect with a target audience as a whole.

     The team studied McDonalds by taking a brief look at the history of the company and then by looking at two individual advertising campaigns. The company’s history was useful to the group because it gave context with which to understand the individual marketing campaigns. For example, The “I’m Lovin’ It” campaign looks very different when viewed with the knowledge that the company launched the campaign after their first quarter of net loss in many years. The “I’m Lovin’ It” campaign also showed how broad of a corporation McDonalds really is. When looking at international commercials, the team found that the commercials were almost exactly the same in every way except for the language. However, the small differences that did exist were very telling because they revealed the specific interests of the McDonalds Corporation within that country. For example, in China, the “I’m Lovin’ It” Campaign was clearly pushed a little harder than many other international campaigns. This was shown by the company spray-painting their slogan on trains in Hong Kong and hiring American pop singer Lee Horn to sing the “I’m Lovin It” song in Chinese. McDonalds took these extra steps because the company has serious competition with KFC in China, and was doing its best to establish dominance in a country where they were repeatedly losing to another corporation. Still, the tweaks to the campaign from country to country are small at best, which allowed Team McSwift to surmise that large companies like McDonalds must not personalize or specify too much or they will sacrifice the trusted, broad image that allows them to be a worldwide contender.

     The team also noted, however, that too broad of an image can come back to bite a large company. McDonald’s reportedly does not do well in China, often slumping to KFC time and time again because of their failure to adapt to Chinese culture. Instead, they push the same, American style menus with only slight changes. This was evident in the McCafe campaign, which was the second McDonalds campaign that team McSwift chose to analyze. The Chinese marketing strategy of McDonalds was nothing more than an attempt to transplant western coffee culture into China without any tweaks and for this reason it did not do well. Starbucks, on the other hand, did extremely well because they did make the effort to adapt to the Chinese culture. While McCafe pushed items that were successful in America like sweet iced coffees, Starbucks developed new flavors, such as green tea-flavored coffee drinks, that appeal to local tastes.  Also, rather than pushing take-out orders, which account for the majority of American sales, Starbucks adapted to local consumer wants and promoted dine-in service. Starbucks was not afraid to slightly tweak its image in order to adapt to the Chinese culture, which is why it succeeded in China. It could be argued that Starbucks has an advantage over McDonalds because it is a smaller company, and thus does not need to be as consistent with its brand image. However, this is beside the point, because McDonalds certainly had some room to tweak their image, which would have been undeniably beneficial to them. They simply did not.

     The McCafe campaign in America, on the other hand, was an entirely different story. This campaign was launched when the company produced a new line of luxury coffee products in order to compete with American and Canadian coffee giants such as Starbucks, Dunkin’ Donuts, and Tim Horton’s. The competition of all these companies to dominate the luxury coffee market was nicknamed “The Coffee Wars”. McDonald’s entering “The Coffee Wars” should have come as no surprise, as America was wrapped up in the fad of luxury coffee, and beverages are McDonald’s highest profit margin item. McDonald’s had several assets in the coffee wars which they flaunted in the content and language of their marketing. One asset was that they were faster and cheaper than their largest competitor, Starbucks, which is why they advertised with language that appealed to on the go business people who might find that both the price and the slow, artisanal atmosphere of Starbucks is a bit overdone, hence the tagline of their print advertisements, “We know you’re busy, which is why we are quick”. Of course, this strategy has its detriments. Starbucks claims that getting your coffee cheaper and faster forces the consumer to sacrifice quality: “Beware of cheaper coffee, it comes with a price”. Another advantage McDonalds had over Starbucks is its ability to reach rural markets. Starbucks focuses heavily on urban areas, but is few and far between in rural areas as there is simply no demand for luxury coffee. However, McDonalds has stores everywhere (rural areas included), and has the opportunity to introduce luxury coffee to people who it has never even been offered to. Thus, McDonalds has the opportunity to dominate the rural coffee market, as Starbucks has not and most likely never enter these types of areas unless it reaches a size of McDonald’s magnitude, which does not seem to be their goal. This observation provides another context for what a large corporation like McDonalds must do in order to market itself. Its marketing must stay broad enough that it can appeal to rural markets, but stay up to date and specialized enough that it can compete in urban areas with fresh, on the rise companies like Starbucks.

            Taylor Swift advertises in a much different way than McDonalds. Since she is a person, and not a corporation, her marketing is more focused on creating a personal connection with the fans, then giving them online outlets to explore this connection and engage with Taylor themselves. For example, during promotion for her fifth album “1979” Taylor Swift did a commercial collaboration with Diet Coke, which featured herself (of course) and her own cat, Detective Olivia Brenson. Even though she is collaborating with Coca-Cola, one of the largest corporations in the world, the ad feels like it is her unique creation, especially with the inclusion of her cat and its silly name. This little affect is likely to make the fans feel like they know Taylor, even though all they really know is her cats name and the fact that she was probably paid a lot of money by the Coca-Cola Corporation to share these personal details with them. But in order to dissuade the impersonal type of thinking used in the previous sentence which might label her as a brand or an entity rather than a human being, Taylor Swift and her team pay a lot of attention to their online interactions. This can be shown by the phenomenon she created through her twitter hashtag “#taylurking”. In this hashtag, she posted compilations of photos from fans who bought her album “1989”. She also cross-posted these photos to her Tumblr in order to completely cover social media with this campaign. The idea behind this hashtag is that she is showing her fans that it is perfectly acceptable to “stalk” her online by showing that she behaves in exactly the same way; “lurking” on her fans by scrolling through their pictures. This builds a cute dynamic that encourages online interaction by placing it in a positive light. Swift manages to label this type of interaction as adorable rather than “desperate” or “creepy”, terms that a consumer is much more likely to associate with online “lurking”. Swift also posted a photo of herself wearing a t-shirt saying “no it’s becky” which is a reference to a popular tumblr meme. This shows that she understands the Internet culture and is an equal participant who inhabits the same playing field as her consumers. Again, by building an image of herself as a heavy user of the internet, Swift shows her fans that online relationships are fun and natural, which in turn encourages them to participate in an online relationship with her, where they subsequently become more loyal and buy more of her albums.

     Internationally, Swift plays off the same personal dynamic. She simply uses additional details which she feels might create a stronger bond between her and the people of the nation she is catering to. For example, in the United Kingdom, she famously performed with English artist Ed Sheeran on “Britain’s got Talent”, as well as British artists Sam Smith, Ellie Goulding, and Sheeran again to perform on her “Red” and “Speak Now” tours. She even brought Sheeran to Germany with her to sing his song “I See Fire” as it topped the charts there. Even though she was not originally a part of the song, they sung it as a duet, and it came off as though the two were performing for each other rather than an auditorium packed to the brim with people. This is an incredibly smart move, as she is displaying a personal relationship on stage with someone who is more popular than she is in Germany. While she might not have as deep of a connection with German fans as Ed Sheeran, she can associate herself with Sheeran, and use his deep connection with his fans as a way into the hearts of the German audience. She also emphasizes different aspects of her music depending on the country she is communicating with. For instance, she spoke a lot about her transition from country to pop music in her interviews in China. This makes sense, as the Chinese would clearly have little to no interest in country music as it is a very American genre. While Swift may tweak herself slightly to appeal to different nations, she clearly remains careful about not doing too much to destroy her original image that made her successful in the first place. This is something her and McDonalds have in common.

     Since social media was such a massive part of Taylor Swift’s marketing, the team also did research on McDonald’s web presence by using the digital humanities tool Netylytic. Netylytic is an online application that collects information from social networking sites and online conversations then summarizes and organizes them in a visual data map. For example, Netylytic can collect all of the tweets by a specific user, directed at a specific username, or containing a specific keyword over a certain amount of time. It then categorizes these tweets based on content, sentiment, and a number of other organizational variables. Once it has sifted through the material, the application displays the organized tweets in a colorful data map. Team McSwift put up 3 separate Netylytic datasets to explore each part of McDonalds that they researched. One was @mcdonalds, another was the keyword “McCafe” and the third was the keyword “I’m Lovin It”. The results were fairly inconclusive, which is actually what they hypothesized. Since the corporation is so large that it builds a wall between itself and the consumers; Twitter does not spur a lot of direct communication between the corporation and the consumer, and when it does, it is certainly does not play in a personal manner, shown by people being unafraid to attack McDonalds viciously on Twitter.

     The team was able to conclude a few things about the difference between branding a person and a corporation after researching these two entities.  They surmised that because Taylor Swift is a person, she has much more room to interact and engage with her fans, and the internet is the perfect medium in which to do this, which is why she is so active there. She does not need to worry about sending broad messages because her objective is not to be appealing to every single person on the planet. However, she does need to focus on creating loyal and returning consumers out of the fans she does make, so she focuses on online and social media marketing where a seemingly personal and unique relationship with her fans can be exploited. McDonalds also needs to create loyal and returning consumers, but approaches the situation differently. Rather than creating a relationship with their fans, they instead create loyalty out of a form of consistency. If they can create a constant image of themselves, one that is broad and can appeal to many different types of people, then they have created a brand image with which people are comfortable with, and will return to time and time again despite their vastly different backgrounds and nationalities.

            The project was, however, severely limited by time. The group was able to identify broad concepts of what makes a corporation and a single persons brand image different, but they in no way collected enough information to make detailed insights about the strategies of individuals and companies all together. They only collected enough information to prove that trends exist when comparing the two specific entities they chose to analyze. If the group had more time, they might look to analyze other entities of the marketing world, and see whether the trends they found in the first stages of the project aligned with ones they found later. Then and only then they can draw complete and fully formed conclusions about marketing strategy.


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