The AFTERLIFE EPITAPH – Nov. 17th, 2008 #3, Vol.1

McDonald’s is the hard body of the corporate beach and they kick BRAND in your face (and no booklet from Charles Atlas will help you!).

I‘ve had the pleasure of meeting some key people who work on the McDonald’s brand. From the creation of the Happy Meal Toys® to how the restaurants and drive-thrus are planned. It is, for lack of a less butt-kissy word, genius. Perhaps that is a bit too far for a creative of a firm that would LOVE to have McDonald’s as a client (contact us via our “Seance” page) to say. Perhaps dedication to their brand AND consumer satisfaction is what really makes them one of, if not THE top brand in the known universe (my money is on there being a McDonald’s on the expanded International Space Station in ten years, but the workers who make fries will need Phds in astrophysics and zero-gravity hot oil containment).

Perhaps one of the oddest de-branding moves in fast food history, McDonald’s recently launched a Bizarro World version of a super sized location in Tokyo, Japan.

29426_10_468Announcing, the QUARTER POUNDER Store (simply titled “Quarter Pounder”). The menu has two choices only. Minimalist furniture and decor with a black and red theme that is carried into the stylish uniforms of the employees (and goes so well with this blog design!). No statues, Happy Meals, super sizing or apple pies. Not even a mention of the McDonald’s brand name.





What if the concept doesn’t work? Well, McDonald’s, again to their credit, has never kept trying the same experiment hoping for different results (Einstein’s definition of insanity). Although I know, in my heart of hearts, the egg roll-like apple pie will one day return to the menu!


While you may have seen the Food Channel show on the weirdest (or was it most unique?) McDonald’s restaurants, there are many locations that go for a quieter and more upscale look. McDonald’s has very cool interior designers at work in Europe.


European readers know that McDonald’s has been very successful in Europe, not necessarily because of the menu, but because of the store design.

Uniforms have also come a long way and continue to evolve.


Thank goodness they didn’t go “jumpsuit” in the ’80s!


McDonald’s marketing has also been the leaders in the packaging movement. Sure, at one point styrofoam from McDonald’s alone threatened to strangle this planet, but, out of all fast food firms, McDonald’s was the first to relent and go “green” (before that annoying term became popular) and redesigned the packaging it uses every day. At McDonald’s International Media Days 2008, the revamped packaging showed that it emphasized the product as opposed to the brand. The lack of non-biodegradable material is evident.



Chief Marketing Officer, Mary Dillon, noted that the packaging change was a big part of the McDonald’s branding transition: “This packaging is all about simple, easy enjoyment.”

McDonald’s is attempting to change consumer perception of the brand from “fast food” to “good food fast,” according to the blog, McChronicles (Chronicling the McDonald’s Brand Experience From The Customers’ Point Of View).


As a fan of innovative billboard advertising (a medium in great need of innovation), McDonald’s has always been the leader in the use of the medium.


Getting people’s attention several times each day, every day make this billboard expense more than pay for itself! Perhaps a little less of a shelf life and a whopping expense, the “egg timer” is a mechanical marvel. The Giant Egg was installed across from Wrigley field in Chicago.


The egg starts “hatching” in the early morning hours. By breakfast’s time, the billboard is fully hatched, displaying “Fresh Eggs Daily” on the egg’s yolk. The egg stays open between 6:00AM and 10:30AM, indicating the availability of fresh eggs for breakfast during that interval. Later, the egg starts closing up again and returns to its “whole” state. The next day, the same cycle is performed and the egg billboard starts hatching again.

Another unique use of the medium is this billboard that “shakes” up conventional thinking (sorry!)


Placement, such as this billboard right near the Starbucks corporate headquarters, can not only eat into OTHER brands, but they make for a great corporate raspberry and you have to appreciate a good corporate slap-fight.


Not to skip an important message with a haunting visual, the campaign that equated beef with the healthy production of breast milk, there was this billboard (and thank GOD it wasn’t Ronald in the picture!).


This image will always haunt me and I have not had one good night’s sleep since finding it. I am also forced to sleep with my hands and feet securely tucked inside my covers for fear that the Ronald baby will eat off anything that he finds outside the covers while I sleep.



But, McDonald’s does have detractors and some people will take any chance to turn a billboard into an anti-message for the company. Oh, baby Ronald is still really creeping me out. It’s staring at me in the edit window as I write this blog.

Anyway, just look at what some quick-witted individual did with the simple image of the golden arches!


And a really frightening display from San Francisco’s Haight section. I’m just not sure what the message is.


The logo, being so well know, was also part of a recent exhibition, “liquidated logos” by zevs at Lazarides Gallery in London.



Then there are the times when McDonald’s just does it to themselves. What GED genius proofread the punctuation on this billboard?


Or this image? I STILL consider Ronald baby to be the most evil thing ever. I need heavy therapy!



I think one of my favorite aspects of the McDonald’s menu is that you can find regional differences. In a Newark, New Jersey location, I was able to get McBean Pie. I have always heard that in Chicago, there’s McPizza and I have actually eaten a McLobster Roll in New England (please let us know if your location has anything regional that can’t be found elsewhere in the continental U.S. or even globally. Please address all e-mails: “I, too, am scared of baby Ronald.”)

Japan has some interesting menu options. The fried shrimp burger looks really good and it’s very doubtful that Ronald baby would be able to push past it.


The “MEGA” series is equally as interesting as a road block to Ronald baby as well as probably blocking arteries and intestinal tracks. Some refer to the menu items as the “Harikiri Lunch” or “Seppuku Supper.”





All kidding aside, McDonald’s has always been very generous with charitable contributions and while Ronald McDonald House is probably the most visible, in California, a pilot program to stop drunk driving has McDonald’s doing more than their part.


A free taxi service via London Taxi Cabs, will first test you to see if you’re legally intoxicated and, if so, take you home…buuuut, first it will stop at McDonald’s so you can get something to eat. 


I would be remiss if I didn’t mention yet another giant in the fast food industry with another creepy image; Burger King. While I don’t fear the Burger King as much as Ronald baby, I have to admire their new, “build your own T-shirt” on-line branding. Pure genius!


The DIY shirts came after the wild success of a Chicago event in which five designers and artists exhibited their iterations of the iconic fast food chain.


To create your own Burger King shirt, just click and drag elements onto the shirt. You can tweak their orientation, color and size. When you’re finished, the shirt is then digitally silkscreened and sent to you. If you’re not feeling creative, click Randomize for an already-submitted design. 



Another top brand on the cutting edge? The Swiss Army brand has adorned the pockets and purses of people all over the world. Not just for Swiss soldiers, spotspeople or those afraid of Ronald baby, it has many uses and evolves every year.


Every tool ever included in a Swiss Army Knife. There’s also a USB jump drive or just get the 2GB drive below.




Another electronic evolution for the line, the Swiss Army Knife MP3 Player. With wireless earbuds, it’ll drown out the impending approach by Ronald baby!


And the Swiss Army Knife…chocolate bar. Who would have expected chocolate from the Swiss?


The world’s first Barbie flagship store has just opened its doors in Shanghai.


Hoping to cash in on Chinese consumerism, Mattel spent a cool US $30 million to build the massive, 3,400 square-meter, “House of Barbie” store.

Barbie dolls and all Barbie-related products are sold at the store, including toys, movies, books, shoes, clothing, cosmetics, bedding and home decorations. Naturally, Barbie’s Dream House is actually the STATE’S Dream House. She’s just allowed to live there with a number of other citizens according to their need.


Mattel has partnered with Hilton Toronto to present Barbie and Hot Wheels themed hotel rooms for children. Toronto is the first North American site for these theme rooms. Similar rooms have been introduced in Argentina, Chile and South Korea within the past year. Depending on the response of the summer trial, Hilton might introduce this concept to other properties. The Barbie room, of course will be pink and the Hot Wheels room will include a car-shaped bed. This launch also coincides with the launch of furniture from Mattel, which will be sold exclusively through The Brick. Hilton Toronto and Mattel will also donate a portion of proceeds generated from the rooms to SickKids Foundation. 


Long known for their incredible branding and work with top-name designers, Target has decided that giving plain plastic gift cards was ready to go to the next level. Now Target shoppers can give a holiday gift card/digital camera combo. The camera has 50 MB of storage, a USB and is battery-powered. Included with the gift card-camera combo is a certificate to turn those digital images into prints.



Feel overwhelmed? Branding is a difficult thing to approach, but having worked with the top ten brands in the world, the angels at The AFTERLIFE are ready to show you some incredible ideas. Whether you are building your brand from the ground up or just want to move it to the next level. Promotions using your brand and other attention-getting initiatives are our specialty. There’s no challenge too great…unless Ronald baby stands in the way.

Really, why stand for BRAND being kicked in your face? We will make YOU “Hero of the Beach!”

Just go to the “SEANCE” page to get in touch with someone at The AFTERLIFE.

Jonathan Schneider – Archangel of Creative

“Nullum magnum ingenium sine mixtura dementiae”
~ There is no great ability without a mixture of madness



4 Responses to “The AFTERLIFE EPITAPH – Nov. 17th, 2008 #3, Vol.1”

  1. heya,
    you wanted to know if there are places where McDonalds caters to the local tastes. In hawaii McDonalds have Spam, Egg and Rice breakfast plates. It also comes with pineapple. We also have taro pie and the McTeri burger. There are a few others. But i’m pretty sure these at least are specific to the islands.

    • I’ve actually been to several of these places. There’s also a dinosaur-theme one just south of Tuscon, AZ.

      McD’s knows good branding!

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