- In recognition of International Women's Day on March 8, McDonald's flipped its iconic Golden Arches sign — the first time it's done so — from an "M" to a "W" representing women, per a Medium post by the brand's Global Chief Diversity Officer and VP of Global Community Engagement Wendy Lewis. The fast-food chain has done the same for logos on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram and on some of its in-restaurant packaging.
- The stunt quickly became the subject of criticism online Thursday, Business Insider reported, with many viewing it as a cynical move. Business Insider highlighted articles on the website Eater that detail how McDonald's is alleged to have ignored claims of sexual harassment at its businesses, many filed by women. The group Fight for 15, which supports a $15 minimum wage, shared a tweet showing protests against harassment at the company and which read: "Today, as McDonald's turns its arches upside down to co-opt #InternationalWomensDay, we're delivering the messages of their women workers who, in 2016, took action nationwide to demand an end to rampant sexual harassment on the job."
- Business Insider also noted how the logo flip makes easy fodder for memes spanning children's entertainment to anime. In an episode of the TV show "Spongebob Squarepants," for example, one of the characters flips a belt buckle of the letter M, representing "mini," to W for "wumbo" — a nonsense joke that plenty of Twitter users mockingly compared to the McDonald's stunt.
As the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements have highlighted widespread sexual harassment and abuse against women in the workplace, along with a dearth of gender representation, more brands are starting to spotlight their inclusion efforts. International Women's Day presents an opportunity for marketers to seize on this zeitgeist — McDonald's is hardly alone in doing so — but the burger chain's logo flip clearly fell flat with many consumers, coming across as either low effort or tone deaf to the brand's alleged shortcomings in how it handles everything from harassment to hourly pay.
McDonald's likely hoped to spin the stunt into a PR win, as 62% of its employees are female and six out of 10 restaurant managers are women, according to Lewis's post. As The Washington Post reported, critics see the play as particularly egregious, however, since issues around the minimum wage disproportionately impact women, and McDonald's has frequently resisted raising its company-wide minimum wage.
This isn't the first time in recent months where McDonald's marketing has backfired. In October, the brand ran a special promotion for Szechuan sauce after the condiment became popular thanks to references on the TV show "Rick and Morty." McDonald's failed to account for high demand of the limited-edition menu item, leading to sauce shortages and chaos at restaurant locations, with police having to be called in some instances. It tried to spin the moment into a net positive by resurrecting the dipping sauce last month and running a three-episode "investigative" podcast with Gizmodo examining what led up to the October fiasco.