The internet’s reaction to McDonald’s organic burger
Starting October 1st, McDonald's is offering its first ever burger with organic beef in Germany. Actual innovation or pure marketing? Content Fleet's Big Data analysis shows how publishers and users rate the McB online.
Reactions to news of the organic burger
Holger Beeck, chief executive of McDonald's Germany, announced on September 19th that the fast food restaurant will offer the McB for several weeks, a burger made with organic beef. Media coverage of the rollout was most extensive in Germany, but it has been reported on in other countries as well.
The tone of most of the articles is skeptical, but not overtly negative. Particular points of criticism include:
- The McB was introduced out of necessity, not conviction. Other fast food chains already have organic options. McDonald’s had to react to the competition, as their customer numbers dwindled.
- Only the meat is organic, while all other ingredients are conventional.
- The burger will only be available for a few weeks, because the company could not find enough suppliers of organic meat for a longer run.
The McB on the company's Facebook page
The introduction of the McB was accompanied by several posts from McDonald's Germany's PR department on the company's Facebook page. The most successful post, with approximately 8,000 shares, likes, and comments, was from September 23rd and showed the Allianz Arena in Munich lit up like a McB hamburger.
A video post also received considerable attention, with about 4,000 reactions on social media. The clip focuses on a farm that provides McDonald's with organic meat. It depicts how the product is processed and distributed to the individual restaurants. The majority of user comments are critical: Why isn't the rest of the burger organic? Why is the actual slaughter omitted from the video? Why were dairy cows shown? How is this campaign compatible with the use of genetically engineered feed for chickens? The McDonald's public relations department gave personal, competent, and occasionally even clever answers to the users’ skeptical comments.
Another video that shows the certification of organic meat in a McDonald's restaurant gathered around 3,000 reactions on social media. Even a simple post – a picture of the new McB was published on October 1st – provoked 1,000 likes, shares and comments.
Criticism on Facebook? Not really
McDonald’s is a company that has had its share of negative press in the past: poor working and hygienic conditions, destruction of the rain forest, genetically modified animal feed, and their unhealthy products are the most common criticisms. It would therefore not be surprising if the McB was denounced as simply a “greenwashing” campaign. But the reaction on Facebook has been astonishingly limited. Besides a few comments made directly on the McDonald's company page, few organizations or opinion-makers have critically examined the burger. The WWF posted their test on October 1st. As could be expected, the overall assessment was poor, though not entirely negative. The comments on the WWF's Facebook profile were sometimes far more radical than the assessment of tester Roland Gramling.
Organic is of no interest on Twitter
The Twitter channel for McDonald's Germany's is not currently in use; the last tweet was from January 2014. There is regular activity on the company's US account, but the German McB has not been mentioned there.
The online publishers that reported about organic burgers also use Twitter to disseminate their articles. However, these articles attracted virtually no interest on this platform, receiving retweets and favorites in the single-digit range.
Media coverage was critical of certain aspects of the new burger with organic meat, but all in all McDonald's promotion was not negatively received.
On Facebook, McDonald's Germany accompanied the rollout of the McB with video posts explaining where the company sources the organic meat, how it is processed, and how it is then distributed to its restaurants. Every user comment is answered individually, with critical points always being addressed.
Although the introduction of the McB has occasionally been denounced as nothing more than a marketing campaign, it seems to be paying off for the company. The media attention is there, but it has not provoked extreme outrage or a shitstorm.