Service Brings Recognition

August 29, 2007
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Grand Rapids public relations firm Seyferth Spaulding Tennyson brought home a 20-year service award this month from the annual McDonald's USA Marketing Leadership meeting.

But what really made this account special was a cow.

"It was neat as an owner-operator to be involved in that program," said Scott Karns, public relations committee chairman for McDonald's Operators of Outstate Michigan. "I happened to be in Lansing, listening to a local talk show, and they said, 'Have you seen that cow downtown?' People thought there was a herd of them around, when really there was only one cow being moved everywhere."

SST President Ginny Seyferth said the cow promotion wasn't about two beef patties, special sauce or cheese, but it was all about the milk in the specialty coffees being test-marketed at McDonald's restaurants in Michigan and two other markets. Michigan has more than 500 McDonald's with 25,000 employees.

"We partnered with the United Dairy Association and actually had a cow hit the streets," Seyferth said, noting that the cow was a facsimile, not one of the patty-producing variety. "There was a lot of online chatter and a lot of blogging around the state. We brought it to college campuses all over the state and talked about the fresh milk that would be coming (in the specialty coffees). We really teased the market to expect the unexpected."

Over two decades, Seyferth's company has been involved in many McDonald's projects, from Ronald McDonald Houses to launching the "I'm lovin' it" slogan. "Our owner-operators appreciate the fact that they can rely on a firm that understands them and their business," stated McDonald's regional marketing manager Audrey Stone.

"All of it is understanding not only the brand, but the fact that the brand is made up of a tremendous amount of entrepreneurship," said Seyferth, noting that 70 percent of McDonald's restaurants worldwide are independently owned and operated. "Working with McDonald's for 20 years has given our firm just an unbelievable edge in our whole practice because we understand how our clients operate."

For the specialty coffees launch, Seyferth said her firm started planning months in advance.

"We started very, very early in understanding what specialty coffee had to be to be special at McDonald's, so everything from doing in-restaurant surveys to find out if our customers knew what latte was — as basic as that — versus how one particular geographic area might want something sweeter than another, to understanding what the times are when people drink not just regular premium black coffee."

She said SST worked with McDonald's national representatives, advertising agency and store operator-owners.

"We worked hand-in-hand with operations, what did we have to do to be ready to talk to customers, everything from training employees on what is specialty coffee, working with them so they were comfortable with what a shot of mocha might be or what a latte might be versus a cappuccino. Then we developed a very aggressive plan, used at 120 stores. We looked at what was unique and how could this be presented in the community. The whole concept of McCafe was born.

"We worked with operational folks to develop games for employees to play (to learn about the specialty coffees), like Scrabble.

"Before we ever talked to the public, there were months and months of internal communication programs first."

Some restaurants installed specialty coffee bars while others undertook remodeling projects that added features such as fireplaces, wireless Internet access and flat screen televisions to create more of a coffee shop ambience, Seyferth said.

Many of the ideas that SST used are being developed into "best bet" marketing strategies as McDonald's contemplates the eventual launch of specialty coffees nationwide.

Karns, who has fielded inquiries from out-of-town customers encountering the coffees for the first time at his stores in Leslie and Stockbridge, said he expects that launch to occur in 2008.

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