McDonald's going Green

McDonald’s is going green. Not just in the larger corporate responsibility sense, rather they’re changing the actual colour of their logo, to green. News comes from Europe, where the company is a bit more progressive, at least outwardly.

About 100 German McDonald’s restaurants will make the change by the end of 2009

That’s from an AP article highlighting the change.

As much as environmentalism is in my genes, I’m more interesting the branding ramifications of this. McDonald’s introducing a new colour into their brand DNA is a huge step, and is therefore a sort of pocket rebranding. For a brand to be successful, it must accurately reflect the company behind the brand, and the product behind the company — so is McDonald’s a Green company from the top down? Are stores outfitted with energy-efficient tech? Are products made from environmentally-friendly food sources? Is packaging made from recycled materials? Are the staff thrifty and resourceful? If not, they have no business with a green logo, now do they.

Changing the colour of a logo is also an experiment in consumerism. How will passersby react to the new McDonald’s logo? With something so recognisable as the red-and-yellow outfitting of McDonald’s restaurants, signage, and advertising, a change to green may have the unintended side effect of eroding the brand for its ability to attract impulse buyers. Red, after all, is the colour that yells, constantly bugging unsuspecting folks to pay attention or perhaps do something dramatic (like buy a hamburger).

Here’s another point: Doesn’t this seems like a desperate effort to ‘appear’ Green, rather to actually be Green? If McDonald’s wants to change its behaviours to lean toward the environment, they don’t need an invitation. Just change. With a bit of authenticity, and maybe some kind press, I’m sure folks will get the message. Posters and ads could start using Green, while maintaining the red-and-yellow scheme. While they are always free to re-design their brand, a change of this kind solely to express a new effort toward environmentalism doesn’t seem necessary.

They could try another tactic: serve actual food. That might help reconnect the McDonald’s brand to the Earth, farming, and the notion of the environment in general. But what do I know, I’m no CEO.