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McDonald's announced in September that it would be discontinuing its plastic Happy Meal toys. Instead, they will use new, renewable, recycled, or certified materials. This, according to the fast-food giant, will lead to a 90% decrease in the consumption of fossil-fuel-based plastics. Apple also announced that it was working to develop a new technology that detects depression through monitoring data such as mobility, sleep patterns, and physical activity.
Although they may seem like they have very little in common, if you keep your finger on the pulse of the marketing industry, then you will know where decisions like this originate.
American life is now more connected to technology than ever. The American consumer is now more aware of climate catastrophes, political drama, and rapid social changes. Different people respond to harsh realities in the world differently, but there is one universal response to all the uncertainty in American life: hawk-like observation of both individuals and corporate actions.
While there is much debate about how cancel culture affects billion-dollar sales, it is clear that brands are being held accountable by a socially aware public for any harmful actions they take, even if these actions are only tangential. Oatly, a vegan dairy alternative, was under investigation due to the past of one of its investors. This investor is not even an individual who was deeply involved in the company.
What does this have to do with Apple and McDonalds? Marketing departments are often called upon to respond in a world where brands feel more pressured than ever to socially conscious.
Boardroom meetings are where top executives of the company meet to discuss how to avoid trouble. Responding to negative press often means anticipating it, and building positive press before it happens. Although this doesn't mean that McDonalds is in imminent PR trouble, their internal team is ready for it. A cancellation can be blindingly fast and cause you to lose your mind.
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All of us can agree that McDonald's is making eco-friendly Happy Meal toys and Apple inventing a depression detector, are positive steps. What happens if there is a scandal? While some will give credit to these large brands for their efforts, others will insist that corporations don't get a cookie for being good.
These types of actions include making positive headlines and providing cover for scandals. These are just a part of a larger campaign that aims to establish these corporations as a brand that cares.
Related: Why branding is even more relevant to businesses today?
Generation Z and the younger Millennials are the dominant generations. They expect brands to share their values and viewpoints. Because of the abundance of competition in almost every industry, they can do this. They can choose from a dozen fast-food restaurants that offer a similar quality level to McDonald's if McDonalds isn't aligned with their values.
"The brand that cares" doesn't want to sell you anything that is just one side effect of their existence. The brand that cares will validate you and make it easier to navigate the constantly changing and sometimes scary world.
A successful marketing team can transform a business that makes money into a brand that cares in a world full of options.
Do these corporations really not care? Yes.
A corporation is not a person. The purpose of a marketing team's job is to make money for the company they work for. This is important because the internet makes interactions between consumers and brands more parasocial.
Marketing isn't evil or dark, but companies may use it to misrepresent their businesses. It is important to be able to adapt to the needs of our clients and play the game. We can also do research on potential clients to ensure that they are a brand that cares.
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