Donald Trump fires people every week. And then to further emphasize his power over them he says: "Now go." And because this is all driven by the power of ratings and TV dollars, they stay on the payroll and come back on later in the show so the portion of the viewing audience that is attached to them will tune in again.
But that's TV. How about real life? McDonald's announced it was hiring 50,000 workers in one day in an apparent attempt to place focus on its status as a large employer and emphasize McDonald's jobs are vital to communities and families. Okay, let's give them the benefit of the doubt and accept their assertions as fact. In this column I'll just deal with the marketing tactic. Was it a good strategic ploy and will it grant McDonald's additional goodwill?
A close look at McDonald's as an employer reveals a complex cocktail of both positive and negative public opinion, company spin and unavoidable facts. Let's explore. On one hand not only is McDonald's the largest employer in the quick-serve restaurant industry but there is no denying that it offers opportunity. Some 70 percent of its restaurant managers and a third of its franchisees started out as crew members in the restaurants.
Minorities and women make up half of McDonalds workforce and more than a third of owner/operators. McDonalds's employs over 700,000 people so this is significant. It certainly beats my industry, advertising, which has come under heavy fire for under-employing minorities and not presenting opportunities for them to advance. (we'll save that for another column).
McDonald's would characterize their jobs as having competitive pay and benefits. By contrast detractors say that McDonald's offers low wages, little training and few benefits and has the highest turnover rate of any trade. Further they insist the 50,000 new jobs represent seasonal jobs that are offered by McDonalds every year.
So how will making a big deal out of hiring 50,000 employees in one day help McDonald's? Well as publicity stunts go, it's not a bad one. When my agency executed the Oprah Car Giveaway we learned that America loves a big giveaway. So it is inevitable that McDonald's will get millions of dollars of free publicity by trumpeting its hiring efforts.
Also, the economy is still as sluggish as a boxer climbing back to his feet after a third knock-down and the focus of the recovery is jobs. As far back as 140 BC when the Roman Empire began handing out bread and circuses to appease the poor, governments and institutions have been trying to fix deep wounds with adhesive bandages. I suppose for the people who get these jobs, many of whom have been looking for a while, they will be grateful for the few dollars they receive and it is inevitable that some will stay on and move up the McDonald's ladder of success.
McDonald's will probably gain a few fans from people who will see them for the first time as a large employer instead of a series of small factories manufacturing a variety of obesity aids. The 50,000 people McDonald's hires will not make a dent in the more than 13 Million registered unemployed in the U.S. so the attention will not last for long. A couple of years ago Hyundai offered to take back cars if people became unemployed within a year of purchasing the vehicle. Bank of America has offered a "Payment Holiday" for consumers who want or need to skip a payment to ease the burden—the payment is tacked on to the end of the loan. These types of promotions generally grant the marketer some momentary goodwill, and a temporary uptick in sales but have no lasting effect.
The McDonald's tactic will ultimately be seen as an attention-getting, short-term tactic. There are a multitude of tactics McDonald's could employ having to do with their menu, community efforts, focus on nutrition, training, benefits and more that would actually constitute real investment and have a much more lasting effect.
b>The opinions expressed here are solely those of Mr. Woodard.
Larry Woodard is a director on the Advertising Week board and chairman of the American Association of Advertising Agencies' New York Council.
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