Recently we’ve heard the news that McDonald’s McDonald’s was closing more and more restaurants around the world and that this company keep losing money.
First, let’s take some time to rejoice at the fact that people are waking up and not considering junk food sustainable to their health or the world anymore. Hurrah to this! While I understand that McDonald’s is creating many jobs, this come to the expense of traditional farming, fair wages, our health and the environment: so regarding the ethics of such company, we shall be happy that those jobs will be replaced by more ethical one. Of course, we should not deny a sincere desire from such corporation to evolve and do the right thing if they are willing to, eventually: time will tell.
But that takes us to the interesting point that I want to look at in this article. The downfall of McDonald’s is happening while they have been trying to rebrand themselves. By changing their advertising campaigns and visual communication, McDonald’s has been trying in the past year to steer away from being the Emperor of junk/fast food and try to turn into a greener, healthier image. Of course, they clearly overlook that decades of brand building into one specific image and specific products cannot be turned overnight into the opposite into the collective mind. McDonald’s has tried lately to sell us the idea that they were not a fast food anymore, but a provider of balanced meals that cared about our health and the environment. It is a bit like if Coca-Cola would now try to rebrand itself as an anti-diabetes medication, or if Monsanto would pretend to be the champion of organic and local farming. Good luck with that! McDonald’s had misjudged their clientele for thinking that they though they would be fool enough to buy into it. Well, it didn’t take and apparently – shocker! – people who buy fast food do not do so for health claims. It is an emotional and instant buy, the exact opposite of someone who rationalize what organic food shall do to their body. And people who are into healthy food do not believe in the new McDonald’s strategy. In other words, the fast food giant is in a corner.
This is also a great opportunity to now look at what McDonald’s did with their logo and understand the evolution in term of Feng Shui do and don’t.
Now, before we get into the logic of the Feng Shui logo, let’s speak terminology. A “Feng Shui logo” is a good marketing tagline, but not exactly the appropriate wording. Feng Shui, technically, refers to house or business: premises and nothing else. So a logo, a car, clothes are not per say “Feng Shui”; they however relate to the 5 Elements. Here, the logic is to see which of the 5 Elements benefit the businesses we are looking at, and which of their logo work to reinforce those 5 Elements and the business. I hope you understand the logic here and why I have nevertheless used “Feng Shui logo” in my tagline. If you clicked on it, then it worked!
So! McDonald’s. Let’s have a look at the evolution of their logo over the years.
You can see that for most of McDonald’s history, the red/gold association has been part of their logo and image. We have to look at the logic of the Five Elements in term of shapes and colours here. You can find my complete series on the 5 Elements theory here, here and here.
The fast food industry relates to FIRE in term of the 5 Elements theory. Why? Because of fast sales, impulsive buying, being cooked and prepared very fast, having a large turnover….It is all aspects of the Fire and is different from a classy restaurant. Feng Shui wise as well, I’ll do a fast food joint very differently than a 3 Stars Michelin restaurant in the placements
So, first logo: It is mostly the Metal Element with the round shapes and white colours. However, the Fire is already present. Here we have a logical association: Fire controls Metal, Metal is the wealth Element of Fire. We can however argue that the Fire is not present enough. But McDonald’s expands and change logo.
Soon the world famous yellow arch is introduced. Now, there, it is tricky. If the arch is purely yellow, then we go into the Earth Element. Fire feeds the Earth, but helps produce Metal which is its wealth: there is an organic connection here, but Earth can slow the expansion. This is the case with the 1962 logo where the Earth is to me too present with the type of yellow.
However, in the second logo as well with the 1962 onward, we have a very metallic aspect of the M – and the Fire is also much more prominent. Here, we have the perfect combination in term of Five Elements: an aggressive, dominant Fire that is what needed for this industry that controls the Metal = money it can makes, in form of gold/Metal Element. Furthermore, the red stimulate the appetite and impulsiveness of buying, and the red-gold is a classical association for emperors and wealth in the Chinese culture. So, I’d say that the logo in term of rankings and efficiency for McDonald’s are those ones – as seen through the 5 Elements logic. The first on the left is the best, the last on the right is the worse.
And now we arrive to the very interesting case of the current logo. Here, they’ve got so many things wrong that it is impressive. First, McDonald’s introduce the green colour that has never been part of their branding history. Of course, they want to go for the association green – nature, organic, healthy. But then they totally loose the craving and impulse created by the aggressive red. There is no desire created by this logo anymore, it doesn’t stand out: it is average, and you barely notice it in the street. I understand what they try to do, but it misses the mark completely. The introduction of this new color is a tentative of poor rebranding that didn’t take, because of decades of brand history before that.
But then if we look in term of the 5 Elements it is even more worrisome. The green = Wood Element. The Wood Element can support the Fire of the fast food business…But here, the Wood is controlled by the Metallic shape and colour. If we consider this colour to still be metallic, then the Wood is controlled by the Metal. Suddenly, rather than having Fire controlling money, we have the support of the Fire (Wood) chopped down and controlled by its money (consumers). McDonald’s new logo does not represent a position of force anymore, but of weakness.
If we decide that the yellow is not metallic looking anymore, but more relating to Earth (likely to be the case), it is even worse: the Metal is now absent from the logo (except for the M shape) and so is the Fire. No more power, little money. The square shape and muted yellow colour that are both more Earthy, in association with the Wood, are now using the 2 slowest Elements of the 5: exactly the opposite of what a fast food giant with an expansive policy needs. McDonald’s failed at its rebranding and this is perfectly translated in its latest logo. It is hard to say which come first, chicken-and-egg situation here: but analyzed through the 5 Elements, the new McDonald’s logo does not work, and their business is also going down.
Now they could always call in a skilled Feng Shui consultant with graphic designs skills to rebrand their logo one more time and introduce more holistic concepts in their company and ethics at the same time. Hum, I wonder who that might be…
Anyway, I hope you enjoyed this first article of a series on brand and their logo as seen through Feng Shui and the 5 Elements, and we’ll do more in the future. In the meantime, if you need a powerful logo and branding for your business, you can call me so we can design it together through the logic of the 5 Elements for a real success!