* Winner of the 2011 IE Global Communication Challenge: http://communicationchallenges.ie.edu/winners.php
It’s a cloudy October day in Guatemala City. By noon, I drive slowly into a traffic jam. My stomach is tossing and turning: all I want to eat today is a Big Mac.
Outside, I hear a radio station’s loud speakers. Public figures are working behind the cashier in a McDonald’s filled with a crowd of strangers sharing tables and cups of ketchup. Everyone is smiling.
The Happy McDay resembles a national party. It happens all over Latin America and it’s probably McDonald’s most famous CSR program. In Guatemala, for the past 12 years, the restaurant donates the money raised from one-day sales of its star hamburger, the Big Mac. The profit goes to the Ronald McDonald Foundation to provide heart surgery for children, hearing impairment devices, support for two Ronald McDonald Houses, and shelter to families living in extreme poverty.
My thoughts strive around this magical chaos. In a divided society, I see one honest public display of caring. We are acting like a team.
Us Guatemalans are used to poverty and pain. We are indifferent towards social issues. We don’t make large congregations against the injustice and violence that weakens our country. Yet, we are willing to endure hours in a drive-thru line or inside a jam-packed restaurant to buy hamburgers, hoping to turn them into joyful beating hearts.
How is it that this CSR campaign shakes the consciousness of thousands of Guatemalans, uniting them for the cause of children and their families?
A company like McDonald’s works everyday alongside important partner organizations that become key allies in the moment of the movement's promotion, something that supports the public’s awareness and response. The weight of the institutions involved also encourages an intense traditional and digital media campaign that starts months before the event, creating expectation.
In addition, there are three distinguishable CSR strategies:
1. The strategy of the known and the available. The Happy McDay represents an easy donation. You are purchasing an available product in a place you like, at its normal price. Only it’s all going to help kids.
2. The strategy of teamwork. Mcdonald’s creates an illusion of teamwork and unity. The public feels like a simple action like buying a burger can make a difference. The willingness becomes contagious, you feel like you belong. It literally becomes a happy meal that beats the rests of indifference outside your heart. At least for one day…
3. The strategy of the coherent: This CSR campaign is fairly coherent. McDonald’s is a family restaurant, so raising funds and awareness to help children and their families makes absolute sense, and endorses the chain’s image.
So it’s the morning after the Happy McDay. I’m drinking my coffee as I open the newspaper and there it is. Frontpage: Seven and a half million quetzales (about one million dollars) raised in twenty-four hours.
Let’s face it: It’s not the cause that creates attention. McDonald’s loves to see us smile, and we might just smile even wider if it involves helping others.