According to McDonald’s website...
McDonald’s USA is offering guests new reasons to feel good about the fun and the food at McDonald’s with the addition of a new yogurt side option for kids and a Happy Meal brand ambassador.
This terrifying new brand ambassador is called “Happy” (which, of course, is only coincidentally the same name as Pharrell’s ineluctable juggernaut). On the twitterverse people are already joking that “this is the meal that eats you!” and so on. It’s a pretty hilarious example of corporate self-hypnosis.
Perhaps you’re wondering: How on earth did they ever think that box with teeth would do anything but terrify children? Well, as a denizen of big corporate culture for a number of years now, I’ll bet I can take a pretty good guess at what happened:
1. Several years ago, an older, very high-level McDonald’s exec figured that the Ronald McDonald character was getting a little dated. A little long in the tooth. Even Ronald’s break-dancing and fist-bumping was getting old. So he called a meeting with a bunch of the young energetic MBA sub-execs and commanded them in no uncertain terms to come up with something “new” and “hip” because the public was no longer being charmed by the sight of a ginger clown selling them processed meat products.
2. Hoping the older exec would eventually forget, the MBAs commissioned a series of marketing studies that, a couple of years and a few millions of dollars later, culminated in some zany, purple, googly-eyed mascot that, while not exactly registering off-the-scales consumer-wise, was not hated or despised either.
3. The MBAs showed the senior exec images of their proposed mascot along with specially-selected customer testimonials, but the exec hated the proposed mascot and told them to come up with something completely different.
4. Of course, the MBAs were out of ideas and a veritable parade of potential new mascots all tested in the single-digits customer-approval-wise. As the weeks and months went by and the senior exec grew more irritable, the junior execs grew more and more desperate, while maneuvering into trying to lay blame on each other for the delay as well as the crappiness of the original purple googly-eyed mascot. After a night of serious drinking, however, they grabbed a guy from the graphics department to help them. After a while, one of them suggested that they simply stick arms and legs onto a happy meal and use the “golden arches” as eyebrows. An enormous gaping maw was probably considered a little too scary-looking so they gave it teeth. Since it was well past midnight the MBAs agreed to work together to sell the idea to the senior exec, even if none of them was honestly all that hot on it.
5. The next day, fighting reasonably bad hangovers, the MBAs worked hard to sell their idea, claiming that “Happy” (as the new mascot was to be called) was not terrifying at all, but had “tested strongly in the key demographics” (of course, “tested strongly” meant fear, confusion, or out-and-out hatred, but they didn’t tell the senior exec that). They argued that “Happy” would be the centerpiece of a “surround sound” strategy and that Pharrell himself was days away from selling them exclusive rights to his song.
6. Though somewhat dubious, the senior exec was reasonably placated and gave approval to “Happy” as the new mascot. None of the MBAs, of course, really like “Happy” all that much so they’ve kept his introduction pretty quiet and, after a few months, will even more quietly phase ol’ “Happy” out.
And there you have it: The birth of a shitty corporate trademark.
And in case you’re wondering: Yeah, corporate culture really works like that.
Below, the WSJ weighs in on the controversial new McDonald’s mascot…