How McDonalds Dominated the World with their 3 Brand Promises

If you’ve seen the movie “The Founder” you know the story.  A restaurant founded in 1940 by two brothers who built a hamburger factory, assembly line-style.  Then a milkshake machine salesman in his mid-fifties came along and build it into the massive franchise we’ve all eaten at, even if we don’t want to admit it. Generating over $21 billion in sales and boasting 1.9 million employees, owning a McDonalds franchise was a license to print money for many years. In order to make it work, leaders focused on brand promises.  A brand promise is simply a promise you make to a customer that they value, and that you are committed to achieving with a high degree of consistency.

But you may not know the three original brand promises that made McDonalds into the force of nature that it is:  Here they are in order of priority:

  1. McDonalds Brand Promise #1: Consistent
  2. McDonalds Brand Promise #2: Clean
  3. McDonalds Brand Promise #3 Convenient
  4. How McDonalds almost lost out because of their Brand Promises

McDonalds Brand Promise #1: Consistent

Serving food that is of consistent taste and quality whether it’s purchased in Tokyo or San Francisco or Moscow is a major major challenge.  One that we don’t appreciate today.

Ray Kroc knew that if he could nail down consistency, he would win at franchising.  The efforts that McDonalds made in the early days are both heroic and fascinating.  You can read about them in the gripping book “Under the Arches” here:

McDonalds Brand Promise #2 Clean

When McDonalds was in early growth, there weren’t many alternatives for a family to stop at on their journey or for a fun night out that promised a clean environment.

If you’re old enough, you may remember what the washroom facilities were like at the average filling station in America.  They weren’t known for their cleanliness!

McDonalds decided to change that.  They knew that if you came into a restaurant and found it to be spotlessly clean, you would come back.

So, they made ‘clean’ their number two brand promise.

McDonalds Brand Promise #3 Convenient

When you are driving through town and your kids are hungry; when you’re in an airport and you need to eat something quickly before your next flight; look around and you’ll see a McDonalds.

Convenience didn’t happen by lucky chance.  It happened as part of a careful strategy to build a convenient restaurant.

First, the restaurants are easy to find.  They are in prominent, high traffic locations.

Second, they are easy to use.  Menu boards with pictures help you order. Clear signage helps you understand the process to get your food.

Third, trash is simple to dispose of, and parking is plentiful and easy to access.

Leaders knew that if the restaurants were convenient, customers would want to come back and visit again.

How McDonalds almost lost out because of their Brand Promises

As time went on, other franchises began to catch up, and McDonalds became a victim of their own success.

Every other hamburger chain offered exactly the same things.  They were all consistent, clean and convenient.   The original brand promises didn’t make McDonalds special anymore.

You can find out how they fixed it here:

In summary:

A brand promise is something that you customer values and that you promise to deliver to them with a high degree of consistency.  Here are McDonalds original three brand promises:

  1. McDonalds Brand Promise #1 Consistent
  2. McDonalds Brand Promise #2 Clean
  3. McDonalds Brand Promise #3 Convenient
  4. How McDonalds almost lost out because of their Brand Promises: Everyone else started offering exactly the same things and their brand promises no longer made them special

Additional resources

Thanks for reading this article on ‘How McDonalds Dominanted the World with their 3 brand promises and how they almost lost it all.’  Below are additional resources from Professional Leadership Institute, the global provider of online human resources and leadership tools:

Trevor Throness is a speaker, consultant, and author of “The Power of People Skills.”  He is also co-founder and senior instructor at

Find more about “The Power of People Skills” here:

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