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McDonald's head of marketing Jo Webster talks about committing to the British high street in tough economic times

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By Gillian West, Social media manager

January 24, 2013 | 4 min read

Despite the tough times and changing climate “McDonald’s has always been and continues to be committed to its position as part of the British high street,” affirms McDonald’s head of marketing Jo Webster.

With HMV, Jessops and Blockbuster all entering into administration since the turn of the year, McDonald’s fate has been somewhat different with the announcement that the fast food chain is to create at least 2,500 new jobs in 2013.

Citing continued investment in its restaurants and technology and extended opening hours and menu choice as factors for its growth, Webster adds: “We’ve continued to invest in our town centre locations and have actively prioritised the modernisation and refurbishment of our high street restaurants”.

The latest financial figures available for the global brand showed flat growth worldwide in Q3 2012, European branches fared better with growth of 1.8 per cent and, though McDonald’s do not report on individual countries, UK sales climbed some five per cent in Q3 taking its run of consecutive quarter growth to 26.

As well as continued investment in the high street another reason for the achievements of the brand in the UK last year was its successful partnership with the Olympic and Paralympic Games: according to sales figures the flagship McDonald’s branch within the Olympic Park sold approximately 2.5 million meals during the Games.

Considered by some to be a bit of a jarring association, Webster explained to The Drum that McDonald’s has “actually had a sporting association in the UK for many years through our support of grassroots football”. Speaking directly about the Olympic and Paralympic collaboration Webster said: “We were thrilled to be the official restaurant partner and to be asked to use our expertise to help LOCOG recruit and train the Gamesmakers”.

Of the accompanying well-received marketing campaign, she continued: “Our ‘We All Make the Games’ campaign captured the overall excitement. Our marketing stood out because we turned the spotlight away from the athletes (wonderful as they were!) to celebrate the way the fans, the Gamesmakers, our crew and the Great British public all combined to make the Games such a fantastic spectacle.”

When asked about McDonald’s plans for the year ahead with a calendar distinctly void of global events like the Games, Webster claims McDonald’s focus for 2013 is to “maintain our leadership on an increasingly competitive high street,” adding that “exciting innovation in our restaurants” and “reminding customers about the aspects of McDonald's that have become firm favourites over the years,” are high on her list of priorities for the brand.

According to Webster the year ahead is set to be a challenging one for most as “there's a big trust deficit as the public’s trust in corporate behaviour continues to decline,” on top of that financial pressures will also impact on brands as “feeling the squeeze is becoming a way of life for many people”.

In terms of weathering the storm she adds that there is an “opportunity for confident companies that are prepared to be transparent,” and offering “small treats and value for money experiences” should be high on any brand looking to succeed this year’s agenda.

Discussing her role as a Drum Marketing Awards judge Webster says she is particularly interested in the “categories that celebrate marketing talent” but is also looking closely at the long-term strategy category as “long term, sustainable success is what we should all aim for”.

“Creativity has the power to transform businesses and this is what I'll be looking for,” she says.

Deadline to enter The Drum Marketing Awards is 25 January and will include categories such as New Product/Service Launch Strategy of the Year, Brand Development/Extension Strategy of the Year, Customer Reward Strategy of the Year, PR Strategy, and Media Planning and Buying Strategy of the Year to name a few.

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