Posts Tagged ‘McDonald’s’


Make Yourself Famous

Wednesday, October 1st, 2014

“I’m gonna live forever. Baby, remember my name.” - Irene Cara, Fame

It’s okay; admit it. You’d like to be famous. You want to succeed. You want to make a difference. You want to win.

Well, act like it! I think that anyone with ambition wants to make a difference. That said, for some reason, most of us simply don’t act that way. We’re just not ruthless enough. We let politics, niceties, organizational structure and time itself get in the way of doing what it takes to win. We’ve all seen managers make the easier choice, one that leads to losing, instead of the tough decision that might lead to winning.

Over the course of a year, a senior marketer will face a host of little decisions and only a couple of make-or-break decisions. The trick is to make the small ones quickly and intuitively to only get the majority right- and then fix the minority that prove to be wrong. Bat above .500 on the small stuff and you’ll be just fine.

By comparison, you simply cannot get the big stuff wrong. Here, you have to be completely ruthless. Think about these decisions, but then make them boldly. Make them count for something. Make the big decisions in the right ways, and you could become famous. Always adopt that attitude, even if it’s unlikely that you’ll really become famous.

One illustration close to my heart is found in advertising.

I’m all for ongoing agency of record relationships – but it needs to be based on performance. Once every few years a business needs a brand new campaign, a campaign that could possibly transform the business. You’ve seen it happen in the past:

-McDonald’s turns a few syllables into a more contemporary position

-A real live Jack helps save Jack in the Box

-A gecko transforms the culture of an insurance company

-An introduction to The Most Interesting Man in the World pushes Dos Equis into the spotlight

-A new Old Spice Guy ressurrects a brand on life support

These campaigns can transform a business, but we also know that they are a distinct minority.

So when you arrive at an inflection point and need the campaign to make you famous, you need to be ruthless. For example, offer a couple million dollars to the top three creative agencies in the country. Better still, locate the top three creative teams in the country and make the offer to them directly. Winner take all. Once it successfully runs, thank the creators for their work, pay the winner, and tell your agency of record to get back to work.

On the other hand, if the winning campaign idea is merely good, and not the earthshaking concept you need, do not say yes. Start over, and over- until you are truly ready to make history.

Keep in mind this is an inflection point for the entire business. A chance to elevate. How can you not do everything possible to create this kind of marketplace leverage- including putting your maintenance agency on hold and rewarding one of its competitors for a great idea? Your job is to succeed, not to protect the feelings of your partners. Your partners are smart. They’ll get it, even if they don’t like it.

Austin McGhie is head of Sterling Strategy

Stay tuned as we turn to thoughts on the customer in the coming weeks…


Definitions: Business Model

Wednesday, January 29th, 2014

We throw around a lot of jargon in the business world, but do we truly know what we mean when we talk about ‘Vision’, ‘Business Model’, ‘Position’?

We’re going to talk a lot about Positioning on The 3rd Button in the coming months, but we’ll spend the first few weeks with a clear definition of terms.

Today, we delve into what ‘Business Model’ really means…



-A strong and differentiated business model is the most effective of all marketing tools. If your business is differentiated, your brand will ultimately be differentiated. Obviously, marketers can build highly differentiated brands out of non-differentiated businesses, but the degree of difficulty is so much higher.

-It’s hard to see how you can have a strong and differentiated business model without an equally strong and differentiated sense of vision behind it. On the other hand, a strong vision doesn’t need a highly differentiated business model to succeed.

-Whereas Wal-Mart’s business model is deeply entrenched, highly differentiated and creates differentiated advantage, most packaged goods brands lack this luxury and have to create difference at the product and marketing communication level.


-You can certainly out-communicate Wal-Mart and Southwest, but good luck to you if you think you can compete directly with them when it comes to their business models. While I tend to believe marketing can win any war, these are not competitors I’d like to test my conviction on.

-You can compete with McDonald’s, but unless you can actively “de-position” it in some sustained way, the company’s operational excellence will wear you down over time. Operational excellence doesn’t sound unassailable, but finding an Achilles heel  when it comes to companies like these is a way harder than most people realize.

-Amazon has- relatively quietly- placed itself into a position from which it can attack new markets. That elevated position also means that competitors will have great difficultly scaling the walls of

Stay tuned for our next term as defined by Austin McGhie, Sterling Strategy


Who Will Be Our Source of Inspiration, Now?

Tuesday, October 25th, 2011

I wanted to be respectful and let some time elapse after the sad and premature passing of Steve Jobs. But now that the eulogies are mostly complete, I wanted to raise a very important question that’s been bugging me for the past couple of weeks. Namely, with Steve Jobs no longer with us, just who will be our new source of inspiration in our daily work?

Let me tell you why this question is important to me, and to hundreds of other marketers around the world: (more…)


Thursday, November 19th, 2009


In today’s complex world, it’s always refreshing to write about simple brands and this description is meant in a very flattering way. Subway is a beautifully simple and successful brand that is confronting a very un-simple problem. (more…)


10 Brands that are Beating the Recession… Big Time.

Friday, October 9th, 2009

When we launched this blog, one of the objectives was to keep things focused on the positive. So, with the help of other sterling-ites, this week I put some concentrated thought into creating a list of major brands that, in our view, have beaten the recession…at least so far!! (more…)


Answers from the Audience?

Monday, October 5th, 2009

There is going to be a McDonald’s in the Louvre.

“The French may be happy to snarf Le Big Mac (France is the second biggest market for the fast feeder, after the U.S.), but that doesn’t mean they want the scent of McDonald’s wafting past the Mona Lisa. (more…)


If Someone Has to Win.. Then Someone Has to Lose.

Wednesday, August 26th, 2009

In our positioning work, we focus our time on designing winning strategies for our clients – strategies that are projective, aspirational and that focus on growth. Nothing surprising here. After all, positioning is all about the future and directing efforts to finding meaningful “white space”. (more…)