McDonald's offers Mom bloggers a seat at the table
July 27th, 2011
07:30 PM ET
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Toying around with healthier Happy Meals is just the first step in McDonald's quest to curry favor with the nation's most influential moms.

The fast food giant announced on Tuesday that an overhaul of the chain's classic kid-targeted meal will skim down their current highly caloric offerings to include apple slices, a reduced portion of french fries and a choice of beverage, including new fat-free chocolate milk and 1% low-fat white milk. But in order to get this less fatty fare to their intended consumers, they've still got to convince skeptical, health-conscious parents to tote their tots through the the Golden Arches.

The country's arguably most prominent mom, First Lady Michelle Obama supported the overhaul, saying, "I've always said that everyone has a role to play in making America healthier, and these are positive steps toward the goal of solving the problem of childhood obesity."

Though that's certainly a coup for the company in the face of the meal's potential ban in certain areas of the country, their social media strategists aren't putting all their Big Macs in one basket. The company has taken their message to their Facebook community, more than 155,000 Twitter followers and an extremely influential corps of "Mom bloggers" to speak directly to parents who are the stewards of their children's nutrition.

mcdonald's facebook

Rick Wion, McDonald's Director of Social Media told NPR's Allison Aubrey, "Mom bloggers are very networked and very linked-in. They spread information very, very quickly." He added, "Moms listen to other moms more than they listen to other folks."

To that end, the company turned to a corps of "Moms’ Quality Correspondents" several years ago to receive feedback after field trips to suppliers and facilities where the chains concepts and products are developed, and published the correspondents' inevitably glowing reports on their website.

McDonald's turned wired mom-ward again last August at the BlogHer '10 conference, allowing the large, predominantly female audience of the powerful blog network to participate in - and blog and Tweet about - the national launch of their new oatmeal.

The company interacted with participants throughout the event via Twitter, using the conference's hashtag #BlogHer10 and asked BlogHer's network to join the "Make Family Time Happy Time" campaign to raise funds for Ronald McDonald House Charities - and incidentally sell Happy Meals. For each minute pledged, the company donated $.01 (up to $10,000) to RMHC, along with a portion of each Happy Meal or Mighty Kids Meal sold.

The company also brought ten BlogHer bloggers and their families to the chain's headquarters in Illinois. There, they spent a few days talking to company executives, tasting new products, visiting a Ronald McDonald House and a McDonald's and, yes, blogging afterward about their experiences on their own sites in labeled, sponsored posts.

Yesterday, as McDonald's announced their Happy Meal overhaul plans, mom bloggers were offered a seat at the table - a fact that did not escape the notice of BlogHer's food section editor Genie Gratto, who also blogs at The Inadvertent Gardener. Her post McDonald's Happy Meal: PR Stunt or Health Win? corralled mom-o-sphere reactions varying wildly from the irked or skeptical to the cautiously optimistic.

Gratto herself calls McDonald's decision to include parental gatekeepers, especially those with an enormous platform, "very smart."

She told Eatocracy, "Moms involved in social media are talking online all the time, and they're used to these campaigns. There's also so much digital marketing going on toward kids all the time and social media professionals are aware that kids may not be as thoughtful about how they process the message. Actually including moms gives them the chance to raise the dialogue a bit."

And Gratto is also aware that McDonald's may hope to benefit from this parental inclusion in a more directly profitable way, saying, "Parents may feel a little better about giving kid the meal - and they will probably buy food for themselves while they're there."

McDonald's executive Jan Fields seeks to bring the discussion from the digital to the dining room with a "Listening Tour Luncheon Sweepstakes" with winners culled from entries submitted exclusively via a BlogHer comments page. The company's Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer, according to the post, "Wants the best for her kids and is setting off across the country on a listening tour to learn from customers, especially moms. She’d like to hear your perspectives on family meal challenges and how McDonald’s can help make nutrition choices easier for parents."

In addition to a contest requirement that entrants must state their reason for wishing to attend, a complete entry entails stating "your favorite McDonald’s menu item." Clearly, they're not just clowning around when it comes to an audience hungry to be heard.

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soundoff (49 Responses)
  1. Michael

    Actually, people fight to obesity, they shoulg take professionel help. Importance of diet, metabolic cooking and fitness are high.

    September 12, 2011 at 3:11 am |
  2. Ben Shermin

    McDonalds started as a California drive up. The suppliers of potatoes and beef are all western farmers happy to sell their potatoes and beef. The onions are from a california onion farmer who is very happy selling onions to mcdonalds. The onion farm is 100 % sustainable and recycled 100%.
    The bakeries around the country that bake for grocery stores are the same bakers baking buns for McDonald's.

    People did not get fat from McDonald's . Most people just eat too much and are not active enough. If someone goes to cheesecake factory, they will get an even bigger prtion and more calories from Cheesecake factory, fiveguys, and others that have way more fat. I dont understand why people ignore the fat and sodium of other restaurants but make McDonald's out to be worse when they are actually better and lower in fat and sodium.

    People are biasly singling out McDonalds as bad but overlook all the other restaurants who offer way worse foods.

    McDonalds follows very strict standards and if they were beaking any laws the Government would step in, but they are not breaking any laws. There is just a lot of dis-information and mis-information being pandered to attack McDonalds. But in all McDonalds is a safer alternative and a very nutricious choice.

    Most people who are obese are actually obese because of DNa and family history rather than it being from McDonald's. But most victoms of Obesity like to place blame because they want to be a victom rather than being responsible or accepting they have fat DNa in their family history.

    People should be free to eat what they like and want without others trying to be a food police nation. We want to eat whatever we want. mind your own business.

    Live and let live and dont push your ways on other people.

    McDonalds is one of the most responsible socially brands with a great track record of sustainable and supporting local growers of tomatoes, in Florida, and Salad mixes in the southern California valley. Apple farmers are happy to provide apples to McDonalds. The sustainable fishing of north atlantic cod for the fish-filet.

    A Big Mac is a bun, 2/10th of a pound of beef or 1/5th if you like with fresh cut lettuce and a ounce 2/3 ounce of thousand island dressing with pickles, and onions. Really, this is way better than a 2400 calorie Chipotle burrito. This is way healthier than a 2000 calorie salad at Cheesecake factory, and this is way lower is fat and sodium than any #fiveguys burger. It should be called five-fatguys. Because with the biased logic of attacking McDonald's, you actually get far fattening foods at Fiveguys and Cheesecake factory and at Chipotle. Look at the other restaurant nutritional info. If you are so concerned about what you eat they you will look at the other food restaurants and not just bash McDonald's.

    Its just dumb people who are mislead and follow the biased media manipulation.

    Dumb dumb.. Go get fat at home but dont Blame McDonald's for your DNA and your genetic make-up.

    August 24, 2011 at 12:41 pm |
  3. jessicaber

    You can get free range beef and chicken. I have seem both at my local health food store for maybe 15 years and just the other night at my loca grocery store (Shaw's/ Albertson's) I saw free range hamburger.

    July 30, 2011 at 2:35 pm |
  4. jessicaber

    I live in Vermont and we do not have Sonic, In & Out Burger and old fashioned fast food places like that. I am surprised that you all would be complaining about McDonald's. I would rather have Burger King, McDonald's, Taco Bell and KFC than nothing at all. These people are like my uncle wh gave the US Cape Cod Chips. They do it because they love you and they love America. You have the freedom to choose. I would rather have that than mommy telling me to eat my brocolli all of the time wouldn't you?

    July 29, 2011 at 8:54 am |
    • ChesterCheetah

      My snacks are better,they are orange and speak for themselves. It ain't easy being cheesy.

      July 30, 2011 at 2:41 pm |
  5. jessicaber

    Also, we do not have a bus on our street I guess, because we live so close to the school. Last year when Ezra was in kindergarten we had time if he wanted to go to the McDonald's drive through and buy him breakfast and then get him to school clearly on time. Ezra prefered mocha frappe with chocolate drizzle (something like that) a hash brown and a toy. That was kind of our way of cheating, but many days that would get him right up and out the door.

    July 29, 2011 at 8:51 am |
  6. Stacy

    I have struggled with being overweight my whole life and ate McDonald's nearly every day when I was growing up. My mother was absent and I was always over at the neighbors who for them this was a normal way of life. When I was 20 years old I weighed 220lbs. I lost 80lbs of it, ended up getting married and here I am 3 kids later trying to loose it all over again. My eldest son is 6yrs and he has never had McDonlad's, not once. He has had Wendy's maybe 10 times in is whole life and that would be when we were in a pinch. We work closely with our Ped to teach our children about good grow foods and concentrate on not depriving them of sweets while at the same time teaching limits. My kids are fit and have a healthy attitude towards food. No matter what McDonald's does to try and market healthy food it is, always has been and always will be up to the parents to take control and put decent food in front of their children. If you were in a contest to grow the best tomato you wouldn't buy cheap ass fertilizer and throw it on them once in awhile. You buy the best there is, tend the garden and help it grow. Its the same with your child, you are the gardener, you need to feed them the best you can, tend to them the best you can and help them to grow into the best human beings possible. Oh and the neighbors I grew up with had a child, she was skinny her whole life (so was her mother). At 25 she has had a host of medical problems and her gallbladder removed, she still is constantly sick. Take from that what you will.

    July 29, 2011 at 8:49 am |
  7. jessicaber

    Why is every one getting upset. McDonald's was inviting moms to blog. My son is 6 years old and I have had nothing but a positive experience at McDonald's. I am a single mom and Ezra is an only child. Our McDonald's in Berlin, Vermont was recently renovated and has an indoor playground. McDonald's gave us a place to go where he could meet and play with other children. It was a warm indoor gym for him to go to in the winter time. For a while it had interactive video games that you played by riding a stationary bike in front of the screen and his dad would get on and ride one side by side with him. It has basketball hoops and his father would get in there and play basketball with him. Sometimes when his father was not doing well with his drinking it gave us a place to that was safe and public so we could still meet with him rather than having to be alone in our home with him. My son, Ezra prefers the fries and soda (McDonald's is supposed to be a treat in my mind) but they do have apple slices and plain milk or chocolate milk as options for the happy meal.

    July 29, 2011 at 8:45 am |
  8. James

    It's really a shame that some parents are this stupid and try to blame McDonald's for their kids for being fat, hey here's an idea maybe you guys should be parents and say "NO" to your kids when they want McDonald's or maybe take them outside and do some physical activities with them, or better yet actually cook them something HEALTHY instead of trying to shift the blame to someones else because they are incompetent parents.

    July 29, 2011 at 7:44 am |
  9. dbcooper17

    Dear God, Moms, SHUT UP! I'm sick of society having to bend to your will every time you get your pretty panties in a twist. If you don't want your stupid brats to eat McDonald's, drive past the place. PROBLEM SOLVED! All you seem able to do is cry and whine about how other people need to take responsibility for your children. You stupid cows even complain when the company in question attempts to meet you half way. You're impossible to please, just like your own bratty spawn. If you don;t like what they serve, stay away. McDonalds will get the message loud and clear because there is money at stake. This is how business has worked since ever. But, of course, you heffers think you are a special case, as always. Thank God my wife is nothing like any of you.

    July 29, 2011 at 7:37 am |

    This is dumb People dont eat at mcdonalds for Health They eat there because its cheap and quick..well sometimes..but really All of this healthier stuff has not made anybody any fitter in fact It has made people fatter. The numbers dont lie. Its not that people want to be fat it is because people are POORER and these options to have a tasty treat are so cheap. Nobody can afford to eat healthy bottom line is economics period

    July 29, 2011 at 6:18 am |
  11. jessicaber

    My uncle created Cape Cod Chips, Late July Crackers and Chatham Village Croutons so I am kind of a health food conosiure of fried potatoes and McDonald's does nothing wrong in my mind.

    July 28, 2011 at 5:28 pm |
  12. jessicaber

    I am a mom. I am a blogger and I love Mc Donald's. I spent many many hours at the McDonald's playground with my son Ezra who is 6 now. He loves Happy Meals and ice-cream.

    July 28, 2011 at 5:26 pm |
  13. Goat Bottoms

    Mcdonald's food is the byproducts of a sewage treatment facility formed into a patty.

    July 28, 2011 at 4:35 pm |
  14. chrystal

    Well if we are going to blame fast food for making our kids fat, they we also need to go after the makers of Play station, Xbox, satellite TV, the internet and cell phones. Our kids are leading very inactive lifestyles. They spend countless hours watching TV, playing video games, texting friends, and in front of the computer. McDonalds is not the only thing making our kids fat. There are poor food choices all over the grocery stores and in non-fast food restaurants. PARENTS need to be responsible for making the choices for their kids.

    July 28, 2011 at 4:17 pm |
    • MalaDee@chrystal

      It's not just the kids who have those habits.

      This is a food blog, so we focus on food – best as we can.

      July 28, 2011 at 4:23 pm |
  15. Christy Ford

    The should offer PLAIN fat-free milk with all of their meals. And they should bring back their long-forgotten pizza.

    July 28, 2011 at 3:38 pm |
  16. Something stinks

    So, once again a corporate giant is going to pander to the "Vocal Minority"....Blogger Moms?? Really?? Who gives a rat's patoot what some soccer mom with a web page has to say about anything??? Oh boy, I have lots o free time and no common sense so I am going to blame McDonald's because I am not smart enough to know that a Happy Meal is not a good choice 4 nights a week...Yup, then I am gonna tell all the other brain dead moms with no sense and a follow the flock attitude and we can all complain and threaten to boycott them...

    If I was a corporate giant like McDonald's I would tell all the Blogger Moms to stick it where the sun don't shine and if they can't i would offer up a free cup of used fry oil to get it there easier...

    There is no one forcing people to go to McDonald's, so they have absolutely no obligation to "Make sure that what they serve is healthy" if you are smart enough to realize it is not healthy and you don't like that fact, it is easy...stop going every day...

    July 28, 2011 at 2:38 pm |
  17. Nada

    Like I really want to read another momblogger's opinion. Aren't there enough of those out there already?

    July 28, 2011 at 2:37 pm |
  18. Jill

    I think everyone should lay off of McDonalds. No one goes after Wendy's or Burger King and there kids meals... McDonalds offered oatmeal and people said there is as much sugar in it as a snickers bar. They never complained of the same oatmeal that is in the grocery stores. McDonalds offers healthier choices, people have to make them. As for the toys and kids meals, tell the kids no or buy healthy choices at McDonalds and buy the toy seperately.

    July 28, 2011 at 1:51 pm |
    • MamaMia

      I like Wendy's booths so my daughters and my own fat azz can readily slide in and chow down on our baconators.

      July 28, 2011 at 1:56 pm |
    • Ryan in Michigan

      @Jill – I agree completely with your statement. I remember researching fast food places in my area with a cousin a couple years back, and there was a site that rated all the fast food joints based on health. In our area, there are McDonalds, Wendys, Burger King, Taco Bell, Kentucky Fried Chicken, Subway, and Arbys. Not surprisingly, Subway came in first. Second place was a surprise, a tie between Arbys and Taco Bell. McDonald's took third place, with Wendys in fourth, KFC in fifth, and, a surprise to us, Burger King last. The ratings took the entire menu into count, not just the main items, so that may have had something to do with it. It just goes to show you, people like to go after the "big, evil, corporate" guy, whether or not they're right.

      July 28, 2011 at 2:41 pm |
  19. Dawn

    Why not bake the nuggets and fries instead of frying them? Add a piece of lettuce and tomato to that burger. Maybe make the burger a turkey burger. Just ideas.

    July 28, 2011 at 1:28 pm |
    • Meena

      Great ideas Dawn – they could make all these options, while they are at it – they should rename themselves to 'Subway'

      July 28, 2011 at 1:49 pm |
    • Ryan in Michigan

      @Dawn – They're not bad ideas, but I was discouraged by turkey burgers. I bought ground turkey thinking it would be better than ground beef. Turns out, it cost a lot more and had only 2 grams of fat less (16 versus 18). I could get lean ground beef with just 4 grams of fat (this is all per serving, and the serving sizes were the same) for about the same price as the turkey. The whole turkey thing seemed a little bogus, price and fat content considered.

      July 28, 2011 at 2:51 pm |
  20. Missante

    McDonalds is the real danger today in America, created by greedy Irish immigrants just to make a profit selling old - extremely unhealthy food, this company symbolizes the cancer that is currently taking over America. my children struggled with their weight for years, finally after my child becoming morbidly obese at 15 and realizing i had to take action against McDonalds, i made it my life's mission to stop this terrible injustice, me and my group from church go out and picket our local McDonalds every 2 weeks, it's fun for the kids too, much more fun and healthy than a calorie and fat laden happy meal some might even say.

    July 28, 2011 at 12:51 pm |
    • Ryan in Michigan

      @Missante – It sounds like you're just trying to shift the blame to Irish immigrants, of which I am one, you racist pig. So, McDonald's must have force-fed your children these burgers, and you didn't pay a dime towards it, right? Take some responsibility for your fat self, you lazy racist hypocrite.

      July 28, 2011 at 1:01 pm |
    • Meena

      Missante – I think your kid being obese is your fault not McD'. Honestly if you care enough you would ensure and encourage your kid to eat healthier at home than take them to a fast food chain. Of course if the kid still does want to eat out – make it a reward for being nice once in a while. What you need to do is take responsibility for yourself, your kid and your family. McD's is a fast food restaurant – their job is to sell more and make more profits. If they do decide to look into nutritional value – good for them as it will make it a more viable option for other more health conscious parents. But ultimately if your kid is obese – it is because of you (especially if it is not due to a medical condition)!!!!

      July 28, 2011 at 1:48 pm |
    • Dave

      Although there are many causes of obesity and it is not a simple problem, I agree with Meena that the responsibility towards its prevention lies first and foremost with the parents. True, McDonald's knows that their food has the potential to cause incredible harm, but they are a business and, like most business, they operate with a goal of making money, and therefore put profit ahead of consumer health. The point is, a parent with any concern for the health of their children simply will not allow their children to eat this type of crap, no matter what "healthy" options McDonald's claims to offer. Part of the reason they have stayed in business so long, besides being the only affordable option for many people in poverty, is because parents just don't understand how unhealthy the food really is, or don't care enough to limit their kids' intake.

      July 28, 2011 at 2:44 pm |
    • James

      Please tell me you are not this stupid, I feel so sorry for your kids

      July 29, 2011 at 7:48 am |
  21. Prophet P

    These Mom's kill me unable to discipline themselves or their children, you don't like McD, DON'T GO...explain to your children it's your McD

    July 28, 2011 at 12:41 pm |
  22. Ruth

    Jeez... what ever happened to personal responsibility? I am responsible for what goes in my child's mouth. Not the fast food chain IF I choose to patronize them. If my kid becomes obese, I can assure you the only person I can blame are his parents. Even if a child eats a 1990's happy meal every single day for lunch he / she will not become obese. That is... if the parent is doing their job of making sure that they get plenty of physical activity and a good nights sleep. Stop blaming a commercial enterprise for your failings people. Pull up your parenting panties and do YOUR JOB.

    July 28, 2011 at 10:41 am |
    • Wimpy

      Granny panties don't come in my size. I am a food addict-hamburgers in particular. I have been this way since I was 2 years old and even Dr.Phil can't help me. It is the fast food chains fault 'cuz their burgers are sooooo tasty.

      July 28, 2011 at 10:46 am |
    • Multi-Tasking @ Work

      Right on Ruth........I totally agree

      July 28, 2011 at 10:52 am |
    • Meena

      Absolutely totally agree with. Parents today will blame every thing that is wrong with their kid on everyone else except their own parenting (or lack of it). A parent needs to first establish respect with their kids than work on being friends. If your child misbehaves – ground them. If they will only eat McD's then let them go hungry for a day. A 9 yr old use the F word in a party and the mom exclaimed – 'Oh my son picked up the foul language in school'. Seriously???? as a kid I came across foul language all the time – but the first time I used it in the house – I had to wash my mouth with soap water. That definitely taught me not to do that again and I am glad for that!!!!

      July 28, 2011 at 1:55 pm |
      • Dave

        Although there are many causes of obesity and it is not a simple problem, I agree with Meena that the responsibility towards its prevention lies first and foremost with the parents. True, McDonald's knows that their food has the potential to cause incredible harm, but they are a business and, like most business, they operate with a goal of making money, and therefore put profit ahead of consumer health. The point is, a parent with any concern for the health of their children simply will not allow their children to eat this type of crap, no matter what "healthy" options McDonald's claims to offer. Part of the reason they have stayed in business so long, besides being the only affordable option for many people in poverty, is because parents just don't understand how unhealthy the food really is, or don't care enough to limit their kids' intake.

        July 28, 2011 at 2:43 pm |
  23. Hamburglarr

    There's nothing McDonald's won't do to make a buck. Try to lure in ignorant, fat, lazy moms of fat, lazy kids to just see what new kinds of new fat-laden foods McDonald's can pitch to bloat their already fat bottom line. Good job!

    July 28, 2011 at 10:30 am |
    • Wendy

      Yea,What he said. Bunch of lard azzes.

      July 28, 2011 at 10:35 am |
    • Wayne

      Nutritious animal fats are not the enemy. Do some research before posting. The enemy is fruit drinks and sweet soda. Fructose and sugar cause obesity and other health related problems.

      July 29, 2011 at 8:54 am |
      • MsSheri

        There are no nutritious animal fats!! The "meat" is packed full of chemicals!!!

        July 30, 2011 at 11:14 am |
  24. anna

    this is a great post from the campaign for a commercial free childhood about the new changes at mcdonald's:

    July 28, 2011 at 10:22 am |
  25. Evil Grin

    McDonald's can afford an excellent marketing team. This really is just part of their strategy. If they didn't think it would help sell product, they wouldn't do it.

    That said, I have to congratulate them on a well thought out plan of attack. They are the first fast food firm to reach out to mom-bloggers and as for discussions on healthy foods for kids. At least some moms are going to come away feeling happy, feeling that McDonald's is not really that unhealthy, and sharing that with others. McDonald's gets to hear directly from so-called influential moms what they think would actually be healthy for their kids. If it turns out to be cost effective, they'll add it to their menu.

    I guarantee if they add just one mommy-blogger suggested item to their menus, people will be really praising them – and buying more from them.

    It's really a brilliant marketing stategy.

    July 28, 2011 at 9:22 am |
  26. RichardHead

    Prepare for the biggest PR BS since the cigarette manufactures kept saying that smoking did not cause cancer. It's not our fault that your kids are obese....yea right.

    July 27, 2011 at 8:24 pm |
    • anna

      i (sadly) agree

      July 28, 2011 at 10:15 am |
    • Bstar

      Seriously? A parent who doesn't take the time or effort to provide nutritious food for their child yet DOES take the time to bitch about the food someone else provides is a pathetic parent. Grow up and take responsibility. Don't purchase the products if you object to their effects. Don't allow important decisions about your child's health to be made by the child who has no understanding of the implications of their decision. Yet another example why we ought to require skills and competency tests to reproduce.

      July 28, 2011 at 11:01 pm |
    • Wayne

      How can a parent feed good nutritious food when are clueless as to what is good food.
      It isn't McD's fault. Kids drink fruit juice and soda away from McD's and that is the problem. It isn't fried food it isn't the burger, it is the sweets.

      July 29, 2011 at 8:51 am |
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