Leading and Emerging Through Turbulence

The test of any personal or professional brand is its ability to survive negative media, publicity, scandal, or insult. Let us take McDonald’s, for instance. In 2012, The New York Times Magazine released a story about McDonald’s comeback from the Supersize Me documentary.  “The  most  famous  assault  on  the  company’s  reputation  was  probably Morgan   Spurlock’s Supersize   Me,   the   2004   Oscar-nominated   documentary   that suggested a month of eating only McDonald’s meals might hasten your death.” This incident is one of the best examples of information being used to free an enslaved public by the continuous exposure of the food industry through documentaries such as Food,  Inc.,  Fed  Up,  and  Supersize  Me.  Since  “communication always happens as a multidimensional process and each participant in this process needs to accept the validity of certain quasi-universal demands or claims to achieve understanding” it is not a surprise that fast-food chains such as McDonald’s participated in a repair-mechanism strategy to help them emerge from the onslaught of the negative publicity the company faced.

The day before the Supersize Me documentary aired,  McDonald’s restaurants released a healthy options menu. The company claims that it was a coincidence. Although they did not openly admit the issues associated with their food,  they did significantly diversify their menu. In addition to focusing on the menu, they sat out to change the way that their company thought about food.  “The goal,  according to  Neil  Golden,  the company’s chief marketing officer for its American restaurants, is to win over the holdouts. One  way  to  do  that  is  by  improving  the  food  itself.”  Spending two billion a  year in advertising,  adding beverages such as smoothies,  expressos,  and tea,  remodeling locations, and adding Wi-Fi helped the fast-food giant to recover from what could have its biggest downfall.

The public still benefited from the information learned from the documentary. McDonald’s saw significant trends, such as selling more chicken than beef for the first time since its inception. They also noticed that they were winning over mom bloggers because of their greener menu. Even though McDonald’s did not go out of business after the  Supersize  Me film,  the company was forced to make some different legitimate decisions based on the new information given in the public sphere that many accepted as truth, which is shared knowledge about the content.

Although McDonald’s survived after the documentary, the food industry is struggling. “Consumer awareness of the detrimental health effects of animal products is slowly increasing.  Earlier this month,  the groundbreaking documentary What the  Health was released on Netflix, which explores the serious health concerns relating to the meat and dairy industries,” according to Vegan Health (2017).

Another report,  titled Top  Trends in  Prepared  Foods in  2017,  was prepared by research company GlobalData. They showed the explosion in veganism over the last three years. It cited a growing awareness of the impact of meat consumption amongst consumers who are increasingly looking for more ethically produced and environmentally sustainable foods. It is essential to look at trends shaping your given industry and align your corporate strategy in a way that helps your organization thrive and emerge from negative publicity that can occur in virtually any industry.