In October 2014, McDonald’s USA imported a successful YouTube campaign from Canada called, “Our Food. Your Questions.” Five months after the launch of the American version of the Canadian campaign, video intelligence indicates that these webisodes have become one of the most influential video vignettes on the topic of food to originate in the Great White North since Epic Meal Time debuted in October 2010.

And if imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, then McDonald’s “transparency” campaign may also be one of the clearest and most durable ideas to come out of Canada since William Chalmers invented Plexiglas at McGill University in 1931.

McDonald's on YouTube: Our Food, Your Questions

macdonalds answers questions

Here’s the back story: In the spring of 2012, McDonald’s Canada launched the original campaign about “Our Food. Your Questions.” It gave Canadians a chance to ask the company anything about its food. McDonald’s Canada recognized that there were certain myths and misconceptions surrounding its packaging, product launches, the quality of its food, and the way in which that food was prepared.

Research found that a lot of these myths were seeded and growing within social media. For that reason McDonald’s decided to launch a social media marketing campaign to tackle these misconceptions head on and use transparency to put any negative rumors to rest.

The Canadian campaign launched in May 2012 with a YouTube video directing visitors to a dedicated website where they could submit questions about the brand by logging in through their Twitter or Facebook account. The questions on the site ranged from “How is it that a McDonald’s burger does not rot?” to “Does your Egg McMuffin use real eggs? They look too perfect.” The most popular video features Hope Bagozzi, creative and national marketing director at McDonald’s Canada, explaining why a hamburger looks different in advertising than it does when purchased from the restaurant. “Behind the scenes at a McDonald's photo shoot” currently has 10.3 million views, 27,000 YouTube likes, 91,000 Facebook shares, and 21,000 tweets:

A few months later in August 2012, the company promoted the Q&A campaign with a four-week “offline” advertising campaign that included a 30-second television commercial, video projections on buildings, and transit advertising in key markets across Canada.  

McDonalds: Redefining Corporate Transparency

In January 2013, Marketing magazine named McDonald’s Canada “Marketer of the Year for 2012” and said that “Our Food. Your Questions” had “redefined transparency, making McDonald’s top of mind.”

In November of the same year, McDonald’s Australia launched its version of “Our Food. Your Questions.” In fact, the most popular video on their YouTube channel is “McDonald's AU - Our Food Your Questions (short version).” It currently has 798,000 views, 11 YouTube likes, 77 Facebook shares, and 7 tweets:

Providing Answers to Consumer Questions Via Video

macdonalds our food your questionsOn October 13, 2014, McDonald’s USA launched the American version of “Our food. Your Questions.” And the company started answering questions from customers and food skeptics like, “What is in my hamburger?” or “What part of the chicken is a Chicken McNugget?” McDonald’s invited people to submit their food questions via social media and said it would respond with behind-the-scenes webisodes and other social content that provided facts on ingredients, how food is made and how it’s prepared in restaurants.

McDonald’s employed curious skeptic Grant Imahara, the former series host of the Discovery Channel’s “MythBusters” program, to uncover real answers to tough questions by visiting the company’s suppliers and restaurants across the country. McDonald’s captured these visits in a series of video vignettes that have appeared on the company’s website, Twitter feed, Facebook page and YouTube channel. McDonald’s has leveraged these same channels to answer food questions, share multimedia content, and engage in open conversation.

McDonald’s US Transparency Campaign on YouTube:  31M Views

So, how is the American version of the transparency campaign doing? Well, the most popular video on McDonald’s US channel isn’t from the campaign. It’s “McDonald's: Super Bowl XLIX Pay With Lovin',” which has 15.8 million views, 9,699 YouTube likes, 15,000 Facebook shares, and 5,513 tweets:

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https://youtu.be/iq2Sm2XGv_s

However, the second most popular video on the company’s US channel is “Our food. Your questions. What are McDonald's Chicken McNuggets made of?” It has 7.2 million views, 27,000 YouTube likes, 16,000 Facebook shares, and 2,937 tweets

https://youtu.be/6o6Hh6tQj2w

The third most popular video on McDonald’s US channel is “Our food. Your questions. What are McDonald’s USA fries made of?” It has 6.2 million views, 13,000 YouTube likes, 7,130 Facebook shares, and 1,436 tweets.

https://youtu.be/el0EDgyO39w

So far, the 13 videos in McDonald’s US transparency campaign currently have a total of 30.7 million views. In other words, the American version of “Our Food. Your Questions.” is over 1.9 times more popular than the company’s Super Bowl commercial and almost 7.7 times more popular than its animated “Archenemies” ad, which was named “Ad of the Day” by Adweek.

McDonald's on YouTube: Channel of Influence

Although some industry observers might assume that it’s too early to tell if the company’s transparency campaign is changing the hearts, minds, and actions of customers and food skeptics, the McDonald’s US YouTube channel has a Tubular Influencer Score of 717, which is “Great.” (A score of 600 is “Good” and a score of 800 is “Amazing.) By comparison, Epic Meal Time’s YouTube channel has an Influencer Score of 782, while Carl’s Jr’s has a score of 647, Taco Bell has a score of 597, Wendy’s has a score of 578, and Burger King has a score of 503.

McDonald's TIS

The Tubular Influencer Score measures a channel’s ability to influence its audience members and takes into account over 10 different metrics. Scores range from 0-1000 and are recalculated weekly from the previous 90 days of data. This score is computed primarily using the following components:

  • Reach: How many people and influencers does the channel reach (e.g., views, subs)?
  • Engagement: How engaged is a channel's audience (e.g., comments, likes)?
  • Channel Activity: How active is the channel creator in engaging with his fans and uploading new videos?

McDonald's Transparency Campaign and Reach

McDonald’s transparency campaign also seems to have had an impact on a competitor and a fast food prankster. For example, check out “Wendy’s Romaine Lettuce Journey,” which was published by Wendy’s on Mar. 5, 2015. It already has 572,000 views, 62 YouTube likes, 28 Facebook shares, and 14 tweets. Why do you think Wendy’s decided to show the journey of their romaine lettuce from farm to drive-thru? And when did Wendy’s start asking viewers to “Tell us how much you love Wendy’s salads in the comments below or on Facebook and Twitter”?

Or, watch “Fast Food ADS vs. REALITY Experiment.” Published June 15, 2014, by Mediocre Films, the video currently has 8.0 million views, 81,000 YouTube likes, 22,000 Facebook shares, and 5,786 tweets. Do you suspect that this guy has seen the video featuring Hope Bagozzi that McDonald’s Canada published in 2012?

Let me add one final fact: On Mar. 4, 2015, McDonald’s USA announced new menu sourcing initiatives including only sourcing chicken raised without antibiotics that are important to human medicine. In addition, McDonald’s U.S. restaurants will also offer customers milk jugs of low-fat white milk and fat-free chocolate milk from cows that are not treated with rbST, an artificial growth hormone.

So, it appears that McDonald’s transparency campaign is changing the hearts, minds, and actions of the company’s executives, too. Now, that’s why I think McDonald’s “transparency” campaign is one of the clearest and most durable ideas to come out of Canada.

Data from TubularLabs and YouTube.