How many companies think about celebrating their employees publicly? We still live in the marcom world where we agonize and spend millions crafting and communicating the essence of a brand. No wonder the general attribute of social media - lack of control - is anathema to marketers. Now imagine publicly spotlighting employees who may or may not reflect that precious brand personality.
McDonalds - yes, MickeyD's - has taken a bold move with their Voice of McDonald's II contest. This April, while we in the US tune in to this generation's Ed Sullivan show - American Idol - 14 McDonald's staff will be battling it out in Orlando for the top $25,000 prize in their employee singing contest. (In regards to American Idol - David Cook should win not just for his talent but for his guts at quoting Patrick Swayze from Roadhouse on his profile)
The contest has been going on for some months with over 3500 entrants from the 1.6 million member workforce. Thanks to Springwise for a pretty succinct description of the program. McDonald's has gotten some great traditional media coverage. This article in the NYTimes describes the contest:
"For the second competition, the company added online voting for the semifinalists as a way to get employees and customers more involved, Mr. Floersch said.
Once the 35 semifinalists were selected in late September, they were given a list of 38 songs from which to choose. It includes British and American standards, including 16 Beatles songs, “The Gambler” by Kenny Rogers and “Sugar, Sugar” by The Archies.
“I preferred ‘Yesterday,’ but I imagined a lot of people would sing it,” said Axel Gaston Rivero, 20, a finalist from Argentina, speaking through a translator. Indeed, three finalists sing “Yesterday,” while Mr. Rivero is alone in offering “Hey Jude.”
The list of semifinalists was pared to 14 in December, with online voting accounting for 25 percent of the score. At the finals competition in April, contestants can choose any song, and will be able to work with voice coaches."
The Magic Isn't The Traditional Media
The magic for me is in the online voting. We have a model to help contestants promote their entries in contests via a virtual BuzzKit. Online tools help them invite friends and families to vote in support of their performer. This turns every contestant into a WOM ambassador. I would guess that something similar happened here. What a great way to build a connection between the brand and individual customers - invite those customers to vote for their favorite employee/performer. This is also a great way to bring real personality to the McDonald's brand - something far beyond what Ronald or HamBurglar can ever do.
I am guessing that the communications team at McDonald's sees the value in the big media coverage they nailed. And while that has it's value, I am hoping they continue with the contest yet embrace the value in word of mouth by adding any of the following:
- BuzzKits for any entrant to help promote their perfomance and garner more consumer votes
- A social media optimized experience that makes it easy to share, bookmark and cross-post video
- Google maps mash-up locating entrants with their store locations
- Videoblog entries from the finalists
- Aggregate all the conversation in blogs about the contest into a single display. This is like what we are doing for Select Comfort via beds.com. This unbiased collection rewards blog coverage demonstrates the power of word of mouth
While part of me pines for employers to engage their employees to talk about the brands they work for and the issues related to their business - relevant, sustained conversation - I know that is generally unrealistic. Empowering 3600 staffers - never mind 1.5 million employees - to talk about the benefits of McDonald's in relation to childhood obesity or nutritional health is not going to happen. (although, preparing those employees to have balanced discussions about these issues could actually happen).
McDonald's has taken a great step in celebrating their employees in a way that doesn't put them at much risk. "Working at McDonald's" has too long been maligned as the lowest profession. This contest demonstrates that McD's is proud of their employees not for their robotic compliance to the tenants of Hamburger U. but for their individuality and considerable talents. Just listen to Natericia Pintor, finalist from Portugal: