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Chief executive Don Thompson said the way McDonald’s markets itself to customers in the United States would change in 2014 under the direction of Deborah Wahl, the new chief marketing officer of McDonald’s USA. Namely, the brand should rebuild its awareness among consumers that McDonald’s already allows greater customization than they realize because sandwiches are made to order, he said.

“It means there’s a notion that the awareness customers have about who we really are as McDonald’s and what we’re able to deliver in that kitchen, which is a customized sandwich for you, [is lacking],” Thompson said. “It’s something we really need to be able to advance in our marketing messages more. Now, there has been concern with how hard we could go with that message if we didn’t think we had more capacity headroom. So with that in mind, we did some things with the kitchen.”

Fenton added that the Dollar Menu & More, introduced in November, would be a simpler way for customers to understand McDonald’s value proposition and called the new platform a “good transition from where we had to go with our value menus and the Dollar Menu,” which were ineffective only a few years ago.

“If you look back at 2012, we had the Extra Value Menu, Extra Value Meals and the Dollar Menu — rather confusing, not only to our customers but actually also kind of confusing to us,” Fenton said. “With Dollar Menu & More, it’s designed to really stretch out our product variety and give us flexibility in pricing. … We’re seeing slight gains in guest counts, and of course it’s margin-friendly.”

The new platform is succeeding with both guests and operators in its early run, Thompson said, unlike the previously attempted tiered-value system.

“To be very honest, Extra Value Menu, while a very solid attempt to mine out additional profitability, the consumer benefit was not as strong as Dollar Menu & More,” he said. “Dollar Menu & More is customer-focused, customer-based, builds off the core equity and yields that value to customers in that way. This is what we mean by getting closer and getting back to a stronger relationship with customers.”

McDonald’s needs to continue building its relevance to consumers back up across all dayparts, he added, pointing to breakfast as a key opportunity.

“Coffee tends to be part of the lead for breakfast, but we have great-tasting food,” he said. “If we lose relevance in coffee, then we’re going to lose a transaction that yields a food purchase. So we have to make sure the food is relevant and that the awareness around McDonald’s as a kitchen and a restaurant that cooks and prepares fresh, high-quality food is strong and pronounced in our marketing and our messaging.”

McDonald’s operates or franchises more than 35,000 restaurants in more than 100 countries, including more than 14,000 locations in the United States.

Contact Mark Brandau at mark.brandau@penton.com.
Follow him on Twitter: @Mark_from_NRN