“Think Global, Act Local”: An Evaluation of McDonald’s Marketing Mix

Written By Elle Schmidt.  For more on this author, see Twitter and/or WordPress.


Photo courtesy of Interbrand

McDonald’s is a household name in America and throughout the world.  It is the leading global foodservice retailer with over 33,500 restaurants in 119 countries.  It remains at the top of its market by delivering a remarkably consistent customer experience while still allowing for locally relevant menu and service variation.  The article I would like to share with you today focused on the integrated marketing strategies used by  McDonald’s and the ways in which it combines internationalization and globalization elements to fit their various markets.

In our readings this week, we learned that times, styles, and tastes change.  In order to stay ahead of the competition, and protect market share, companies need to make the most out of their opportunities and be willing to adapt. The key to the company’s international success has been its use of franchising.  It’s important to look beyond traditional markets and borders in order to fully exploit a brand’s sales potential.  Crossing borders, both physically and electronically, is becoming increasingly vital for even the smallest businesses to remain competitive.

Claudio Vignali, the author of this study, evaluated the marketing mix of McDonald’s brand in terms of globalization versus internationalization.  Globalization, he said, involves developing marketing strategies as though the world is a single entity, marketing standardized products in the same way everywhere.  Internationalization involves customising marketing strategies for different regions of the world according to cultural, regional and national differences. The study also identified three additional additives to the 4Ps of the marketing mix formulated by McCarthy in 1975.  Vignali applied the 7Ps,  product, place, price, promotion, people, process, and physical, developed by Gilligan in 1996, in his analysis of McDonald’s. First, he looked at McDonald’s use of product in its marketing mix. One of the major aims of the organization is to create a standardized set of items that taste the same regardless of the country in which they are found.  Applying this strategy, while maintaining its ability to adapt to certain environmental conditions, ensures success.


Photo courtesy of FlushNews.com

There have been many situations, however, where McDonald’s has adapted its product in order to match religious laws and customs in a country. For example, in order to match the needs of the people in India, McDonald’s serves Vegetable McNuggets and a mutton-based Maharaja Mac. India is a nation comprised of Hindus, who do not eat beef, Muslims, who do not eat pork, and Jains, who refuse to eat meat of any kind. In our readings, we learned that it would be the height of American arrogance to assume that what works here ought to work in other places that have older and probably must richer cultures than ours.  This is a perfect example of McDonald’s sensitivity to other cultures and a way in which it integrated itself, as a brand, into those special markets.

Perhaps the most interesting aspect of McDonald’s marketing mix is its use of promotion.  Promotion consists of five major tools: advertising, direct marketing, sales promotion, public relations and publicity, and personal selling.  Although the driving force behind McDonald’s marketing is to promote its global image, the company still focuses on the needs of the communities they are entering.

In its advertising, McDonald’s conveys one overall image with different personalities in different cultures.  They concentrate on standardizing the brand name but localizing advertising campaigns.  For example, in East Asia, McDonald’s advertisements are geared toward children, to whom it credits much of its success in that region.

According to our readings, one of the most important marketing public relations activities is the generation of positive publicity for the brand and company.  In terms of public relations, McDonald’s typically has localized its efforts.  However, there are some cases in which the company has adopted a more global strategy.  In 1997 they paired up with Walt Disney, which allowed them to share exclusive marketing rights for everything from films to food, for the next ten years.  This was a tremendously successful global public relations effort because Walt Disney has a world-wide appeal. Another way McDonald’s gains positive publicity through its public relations is through the use of sports sponsorships.  The company sponsors a vast array of sports on both the national and global level.  Globally, it enhances its name with associations with the Olympic Games and the World Cup.  Nationally, it links itself with organizations like the NBA and NASCAR.

The readings for this week also discuss the problems of language barriers in global marketing.  It’s not enough to study language out of a book. Even within a country, not everyone understands the connotative meaning that words pick up through usage. In addressing this issue, McDonald’s uses pictographs, where employees world-wide can ring up sales on machines that display symbols of Big Macs, french fries, or colas instead of words or numerals.  The company is also strongly committed to staffing locally and promoting from within, hiring only managers who understand both the corporate and local cultures in which they operate.

In 2014, its focus will be on Asia, where it must find the product sweet spot for consumers across the region, a key to successful expansion and relevancy in the market.  McDonald’s has faced numerous challenges in the Japanese market in particular.”The biggest reason behind our failure is our declining creative ability,” says chairman and president Eiko Harada, apparently blaming himself for not coming up with interesting-enough trinkets and freebies. “We have not been able to astonish our customers.”  In Japan, one of the most important roles of food is bringing people together and creating a sense of community.  What marketing strategies/tactics would your recommend for McDonald’s to increase its presence here?

In summary, this article found that the McDonald’s message stressing a family environment is the consistent throughout the world. It just depends on where you are as to how that message is packaged and broadcast.  After analyzing the marketing mix of McDonald’s, Vignali concluded that the company can be said to be “glocal,” meaning it combines elements of both globalization and internationalization. They have achieved this by applying the maxim, “think global, act local,” to all the elements of the marketing mix. My only concern with the findings in this article is that it failed to address McDonald’s social media strategy, which has been criticized in recent years. In today’s rapidly evolving media environment, social media is becoming an integral part of both marketing and public relations and McDonald’s in particular has been criticized in recent years for its various social media flops. But that doesn’t change the fact that today, McDonald’s maintains 69 million daily consumers through greater choice and localization, consistent global brand expression, and customer experience.


Fiegerman, S. (2012, November 25). 11 biggest social media disasters of 2012. Retrieved from http://mashable.com/2012/11/25/social-media-business-disasters-2012/

Interbrand. (2014). Best global brands 2013. Retrieved from http://www.interbrand.com/en/best-global-brands/previous-years/2012/McDonalds

Merwin, H. (2013, 4 22). [Web log message]. Retrieved from http://www.grubstreet.com/2013/04/mcdonalds-japan-french-fry-holder.html

Vignali, C. (2001). Mcdonald’s: “think global,act local” – the marketing mix. British Food Journal, 103(2), 97-111. Retrieved from http://www.emeraldinsight.com/journals.htm?articleid=870577

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