Have you connected with me on LinkedIn yet?  Are we friends on Facebook?  Did you see what is trending on Twitter today!?  These are questions we probably hear all the time, I know I do!  Social media is everywhere, and I think most of us have conformed to the “social” civilization we all live in now.  Even for those who haven’t “connected” somewhere online, I guarantee they are at least hearing about all the social media hype.

It is interesting that social media platforms are not just for personal use anymore.  I remember when I first started using Facebook, it was just a small group of my close friends.  Now I have the opportunity to connect with any company, business or favorite restaurant I want!  Marketing through social media is huge, and understanding why it works is critial to ensuring successful use of social media for business purposes.  This aritcle is the first in a series of blogs which will look at how social media is used in marketing platforms, and why it works, and sometimes doesn’t work.

Happy pic

A trending hot topic in social media right now is McDonalds’ new “Happy” mascot.  McDonald’s created Happy in hopes of targeting kids and encouraging healthier eating habits. McDonald’s has restructured its menu to offer healthy alternatives to its well-known children’s Happy Meals.   The company now offers substitutions such as low fat yogurt, fruits, veggies or apple slices.  “At McDonald’s, we’re always looking to bring fun and happiness to families and listening to our customers’ asks to have more variety and wholesome options for kids to enjoy in their Happy Meals,’ said Julie Wenger, senior director of U.S. marketing, McDonald’s,” a recent press release on the change says.

McDonald’s may have had good intentions with Happy and its revised menu, and sure, the image and name of its new mascot has gone viral…but for all the wrong reasons.  As soon as Happy was released on Twitter and Facebook, many were horrified by what McDonald’s had created.  “Might want to go back to the drawing board, I think I am going to have nightmares,” one Twitter user says.  Another says, “It’s the meal that eats you.”  It appears, everyone everywhere disagrees with Happy.  What is McDonalds’ response to all of this negative feedback?  According to The Wall Street Journal,  “McDonald’s was not surprised by the mocking reaction Happy got on Twitter.  ‘He’s not for everyone,’ Ms. Wenger said.  ‘He’s for families and kids.’”

Did McDonalds’ Twitter and Facebook platforms work?  Did McDonald’s make a mistake be releasing Happy into the cruel world of social media?  I personally don’t think so.  I don’t think Happy looks “horrifying,” maybe a little overly animated.  He reminds me of the Despicable Me minions, they both have the noodle looking arms, the rounded teeth, the bright colors, and the funny dance moves.

despicable_me_2_image_minions3Let’s discuss why it worked.  If we look back at the Wall Street Journal quote from Ms. Wenger, it appears McDonald’s anticipated the general population would NOT agree with Happy.  So why risk releasing Happy on social media?  Simple, to be talked about.  Publicity, whether good or bad, it is still publicity.  McDonald’s has been trending all over Twitter and Facebook since it released Happy earlier this week.  EVERYONE is talking about Happy, whether they like Happy or think he is terrifying isn’t what matters, it’s that people are talking about McDonald’s.

Here is what McDonald’s has gained since releasing Happy:

1.) Publicity.  The release of Happy to social media platforms has instigated conversation about McDonald’s, word of mouth is one of the most powerful advertising tools we have access to;

2.) Brand exposure.  McDonald’s golden arches are already well-known, but now Happy has become a familiar image on most social media websites.  People are starting to recognize him as the “horrifying” new McDonald’s mascot.  But even still, they associate Happy with McDonald’s;

3.) Social Media spreads.  If you look back on the Twitter page again you will be able to see how many “Retweets” and “Favorites” Happy has received.  As of right now, they are at 1,464 retweets and 563 favorites.  Happy was only released this week, and the numbers are constantly growing;

4.) Instant feedback.  McDonald’s can instantaneously see what everyone is saying about Happy and about McDonald’s, this allows it to know immediately how its audiences are reacting to its new mascot.

5.) Ignite an emotion.  When selling something, one of the best ways to reach your audience is through an emotion. We are all probably familiar with the Sarah McLachlan Animal Cruelty campaigns, because these ads provide a human emotion.  For the animal cruelty ads, it is mostly feelings of sadness or the desire to help.  However, on the flip side, McDonald’s has stirred up mostly negative or “horrified” emotions.  But despite the type of emotion being created, the point is that there is an emotion tied to its new Mascot and that is what makes Happy memorable.

In conclusion, who knows what will happen with Happy.  My guess is that McDonald’s will keep the unique mascot around for a while.  Maybe this “horrifying” little box with teeth will grow on people.  It is amazing what social media can do for marketing campaigns, the results can be remarkable.  I don’t think McDonald’s failed with its social media campaign because it got everyone talking.  And the only thing worse than being talked about, is not being talked about.  Social media, it works.

Stay tuned for more blogs featuring “Social Media: Why it Works” such as, 20 Hospitals with Inspiring Social Media Strategies, Make-A-Wish Batkid campaign and AT&T Be The Fan.