McDonald’s New Localwashing Campaign

McDonald’s launched a new campaign recently, joining large brands like Starbucks and Barnes & Noble in the battle against actual local enterprises over the locavore market. New billboards in Seattle proclaim that fries served in Seattle’s Ballard neighborhood are made from spuds grown in Richland, a farming region about 200 miles from Seattle. But the fine print tells the real story: “Participation and duration may vary.”

mcdonalds going greenMcDonald’s has long claimed to be good corporate citizens dedicated to healthy and sustainable products. They’ve greened a few locations to LEED standards, demonstrated the freshness of their salads with billboards that actually grow lettuce, and even rebranded in Europe with a green logo.

The new campaign uses the provenance of potatoes to promote McDonald’s as a local choice (though they never actually use the word local). Companies like Walmart, Hellmann’s, and HSBC have also engaged in localwashing campaigns over the past few years. But consumers are becoming increasingly sensitive to greenwashing and related trends. It seems doubtful that McDonald’s new billboards will fool Seattle’s savvy citizens!

Shivani is Principal at Friday Consulting, where she works with food and technology startups on strategy, finance, and business planning. She is also a founding consultant at AchieveMission. Shivani holds a BA from Stanford University, and an MBA from Presidio Graduate School. Follow her on twitter @shivaniganguly.