- McDonald’s has many marketing rules, including specific policies on what Ronald McDonald can and cannot do, what items are “Mc” worthy, and the exact shade of The Golden Arches.
- Many of these rules are laid out in the “Golden Arches code.”
- Business Insider obtained a 2012 copy of the code. Here are seven of the most surprising rules.
- Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.
McDonald’s takes Ronald McDonald very seriously.
The fast-food giant has determined Ronald McDonald has good eating habits, doesn’t smoke and “does not touch anyone in any inappropriate way.” All appearances of the mascot must be approved by the company and deemed consistent with his “core personality” – meaning Ronald McDonald is specifically banned from visiting a nightclub or lounge. The nickname “Ronnie” is strictly off limits.
These are just a few of the rules spelled out in a 2012 copy of McDonald’s “Golden Arches code” obtained by Business Insider. The code acts as a marketing bible for McDonald’s, intended for internal use, spelling out every aspect of the fast-food giant’s brand.
“When we behave according to our values – when our brand actions show how we come together to do good – when brand expressions exude simple easy enjoyment – when our personality shines through all touchpoints – customers will see us as their favourite place and way to eat and drink – and they will be feeling and saying ‘i’m lovin’ it’,” the 2012 code states.
Much of the code is standard. For example, the code spells out careful guidelines on how to market to children and explicitly prohibits solicitation in stores. However, as McDonald’s attempts to make sure its iconic symbols remain untarnished, the company also uses the code to establish some rules that seem somewhat absurd for someone outside the “McFamily.”
“As stewards of the iconic Golden Arches, we take seriously our responsibility to ensure what the brand communicates weaves us together across the 120 countries where we serve customers,” a McDonald’s representative said in a statement to Business Insider. “In a world where our customers hear thousands of messages each day, we are continuing to innovate and modernise our creative and marketing to generate meaningful and personal connections with our customers.”
Here are seven of the most bizarre and surprising rules in McDonald’s marketing bible.
Ronald McDonald “cannot be shown in or visit a nightclub or lounge.”
The code states: “Ronald McDonald does not appear on behalf of any outside company without specific approval from the designated local Ronald McDonald talent manager, agency partner or Co-op representative. Ronald McDonald does not appear in any venue that is not consistent with his core personality.”
The code then specifies that a nightclub or lounge would definitely be off limits for the mascot.
Ronald McDonald has good eating habits, doesn’t smoke, and “does not touch anyone in any inappropriate way.”
According to the code, “Ronald McDonald is a respected role model.” As one of the most recognisable faces in fast food, he cannot be seen engaging in anything bordering on inappropriate behaviour.
The nickname “Ronnie” is banned.
“Do not use any nicknames for the character, such as ‘RONNIE,'” the code states.
Using the possessive for Ronald or Ronald McDonald is also banned. So, advertising copy would have to read “friends of Ronald McDonald,” not “Ronald McDonald’s friends.”
“i’m lovin’ it” can never be tweaked — including capitalisation.
As of 2012, seven McDonald’s icons had earned global icon status, according to the code: The Golden Arches (graphic only), Ronald McDonald, the Red Fry Box, the Red Happy Meal box with Yellow Smile, the Happy Meal logo, Ronald McDonald House Charities logo, and the McCafé logo.
“These icons are famous worldwide and are the most powerful and valuable of our visual symbols. It is essential that we protect all of our icons by using them only in their approved and specified forms,” the code states.
As a result, McDonald’s strictly enforces how “i’m lovin’ it” is presented. “McDonald’s® i’m lovin’ it®” is allowed. “We’re lovin’ it” or “I’m loving it” are prohibited.
“Genuine and honest, ‘i’m lovin’ it’ is a highly valuable asset that connects our brand to consumers. With its casual grammar, lowercased typography and personal stories, ‘i’m lovin’ it’ is the ultimate consumer response to a McDonald’s experience,” the code states.
Adding “Mc” to the front of a phrase — like McMuffin — should only be done in very rare circumstances.
The only products, services, and programs that are allowed to have a “Mc” added on are those that “enhance the value and uniqueness of our brand,” the codes states.
“Do not invent gratuitous ‘Mc’ or ‘Mac’ terms or phrases that add no long-term strategic value to the brand, such as ‘McPhone,’ ‘McMeeting’ or ‘I work at McDonald’s with McPride,'” the code states. “All such uses are prohibited, including on licence plates and in speeches and internal materials.”
The Golden Arches can only appear in yellow, black, or white — with very few exceptions.
McDonald’s is understandably protective of its Golden Arches.
“We own one of the most recognisable symbols in the world,” the code states. “The Golden Arches is our most valuable brand asset. It needs no introduction, no embellishment, no fancy technical effects. And it definitely doesn’t need to be shown in multiple colours to look hip and trendy. It is at its best when it is pure and simple.”
While the code acknowledges it’s tempting to use The Golden Arches in “some visually witty way,” the symbol can only appear in yellow, white, or black.
McDonald’s has specific shades of “McDonald’s Yellow,” “McDonald’s Red,” and “McCafé Brown.”
“Just as our Golden Arches must be protected in order to maintain brand distinction, the colours that we use for branding purposes must be carefully maintained and kept consistent,” the code states. “Colour accuracy is critical wherever consumers experience our brand and see our brand communications.”
McDonald’s has made some slight tweaks in how it uses these colours and other aspects of its brand since 2012. In 2018, the company set out to overhaul its brand marketing with a new global visual identity. The more contemporary design elements aimed to unify the brand’s messaging in countries around the world, putting red and gold front and centre.
- Read more on McDonald’s:
- McDonald’s franchisees in leaked email call for the fast-food giant to ‘stay focused’ on creating a chicken sandwich that customers crave as the chain battles Popeyes and Chick-fil-A
- Inside McDonald’s quest to address claims of racial discrimination and erase former top executives’ ‘party culture’
- McDonald’s gets slammed with new lawsuit claiming black franchisees were ‘disparately strong armed’ out of system
- McDonald’s black franchisees are fighting to earn as much as their white counterparts, as dozens leave the company they once considered family
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