McDonald's was asked to retire Ronald McDonald and stop marketing to children this week by childhood-obesity activists. On Thursday, McDonald's CEO Jim Skinner defended the 48-year-old mascot at the company's annual meeting, saying, "Ronald McDonald is going nowhere."
This week, an anti-Ronald letter signed by more than 600 healthcare professionals and organizations was published in six newspapers, The Wall Street Journal reported. The letter asks the maker of Happy Meals to stop marketing junk food to kids and fire Ronald McDonald.
"Ronald McDonald is an ambassador for McDonald's, and he is an ambassador for good. He does not advertise unhealthy food to children...We’ll continue to advertise to our customers responsibly about our menu and about lifestyle choices and leave the personal responsibility up to them," Skinner said in the meeting, according the Journal.
Skinner chose crystal-clear messaging for shareholders and the public by adamantly stating that McDonald's will not abandon Ronald. He chose the path of offering an alternative reality in his messaging: Ronald is a good guy, not a villain—and we're all good guys at McDonald's, too.
While McDonald's has added items like salads and oatmeal to its menu in recent years to appease critics, Skinner's overall message is that the company's essential identity is not open for discussion. It's a smart move from the vantage point of communicating to investors. And as for its target audience of consumers—kids—they don't want to see Ronald McDonald get fired either.