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Image: McDonald’s

An article on CNNMoney caught my eye last week. The premise was simple: McDonald’s is getting left in the dust by the likes of Chipotle, Chick-fil-A and Shake Shack. Yes, the numbers are indisputable. McDonald’s shares are down roughly 6% from this time last year. Operators are nervous. Customers are yawning. Pessimism abounds.

But here’s why (in my opinion), despite the surge of build-your-own burrito joints and horror stories about pink slime, McDonald’s is actually positioned for a genuine American comeback:

  • New leadership has indicated both a desire and willingness to change what’s not working. From reinventing menu offerings to reconsidering how orders are placed, the company is showing fresh initiative in addressing customer and operator concerns alike.
  • According to the article, a major criticism voiced by franchisees has been the complexity of the current McDonald’s menu, not to mention the countless promotions that have focused on its Dollar Menu and left a “cheap” impression in the minds of customers. Yet McDonald’s still holds claim to something that most chains would do anything to have: brand caché in every generation and instantly recognizable products.
  • Speaking of brands, only a few logos have risen to the level of “epic” or “timeless” in the American psyche: Apple’s apple, Nike’s swoosh and Coca-Cola’s script and ribbon, to name a few. A little uncertain stock market news shouldn’t be enough to dislodge McDonald’s from America’s conscience after more than half a century.

All told, McDonald’s is certainly headed for a difficult and possibly rocky period as a brand — and the developments outlined in this article from CNNMoney are noteworthy. But don’t count McDonald’s out completely — and don’t underestimate America’s appetite for reaching back and enjoying the classics.

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