The golden arches make McDonald’s one of the most recognizable brands in the world. But with 36,000 locations, often visited by people driving on unfamiliar highways, those arches could make for a pretty functional bit of wayfinding design, too.
In a new campaign, McDonald’s and the branding firm Cossette took over highway billboards near Toronto, cropping and abstracting the McDonald’s arches into a series of GPS-like cues–to turn right, turn left, or exit soon. The clever mark was accompanied by simple text like “on your right.” For any road tripper who has frantically scanned the skyline for their next Big Mac fix, it’s a pretty handy spin on the ubiquitous McDonald’s exit sign. And given that companies like Starbucks have found that they can easily lose business if a store is on the wrong side of the road, such a seemingly simple convenience–knowing to look out for that burger on the left, or the right–can likely convert sales that might otherwise be lost.
But for McDonald’s, the challenges ahead are larger than directing the public to the nearest restaurant. It also needs to figure out how to continually woo millennials. After several bad quarters of sales, tricks like all-day breakfast and the $1 $2 $3 menu items have helped the company’s revenues and seemingly appealed to a generation that’s like none before it. Millennials are equal parts frugal and likely to eat out. Plus they demand healthy food. Checking all those boxes at once seems impossible within our current food economy at scale, which offers $38 billion to meat and dairy subsidies and a mere $17 million to subsidizing fruits and vegetables.
In this regard, McDonald’s still has its work cut out for it. The generation that made McDonald’s what it is today simply won’t be around to eat there all that much longer. Gen Xers aren’t enough on their own. And Millennials? We really do seem to be asking for something fundamentally different than the products McDonald’s is offering today.
But those signs, though! Superb.