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January 20, 2015

Selling The Values Meal

January 20, 2015

Have you noticed a change in advertising over the last year or two? Whole Foods launched a new “Values Matter” campaign. McDonald’s has followed with ads that show how franchisees have used their signs to be part of their local communities. Here’s a spot from that campaign.

Advertising is transitioning from selling the value of the product or service (better! faster! cheaper!) to communicating what the brand stands for, what that organization values. What’s going on? Did everyone at McDonald’s and Whole Foods watch Simon Sinek's “Start With Why” TED talk and realize they had been doing it wrong? Maybe – and if so, I’m happy to see more brands talking about their values and beliefs.

On the surface it may seem like another trend for advertisers to follow, but I think there is a deeper change being driven by consumers.

The Internet has enabled a tremendous level of corporate transparency. One could argue more transparency is still needed, but look no further than your Facebook feed to find stories about how many strange ingredients go into a McRib sandwich.

How can McDonald’s respond to this? Will they own up (which they have done somewhat) or will they change the narrative and play to their strengths? They can tell a better story – how they engage their local communities.

In many small towns, McDonald’s is the community center. The local McDonald's is a gathering place, their signage used for community updates as well as slinging more Big Macs. They are part of the community. In fact, this is a core value, "We help our customers build better communities." Their food may be junk, but their community presence is not.

I’ve come to think of this as “values marketing,” or when a company switches the conversation from the value of their product or service to what they value in this world. As consumers we want that deeper connection. We want to feel like our purchase aligns with what we value in life. It may be a placebo effect or confirmation bias – the food tastes better because we connect more deeply with the company that made it – but as studies have shown, the placebo effect is real. We experience the world we want to experience. 

Do you see this change happening with other advertisers?

Cover image via Tau Zero at Flickr.

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