McDonald’s Harnesses the Power of the Mommy Bloggers

McDonalds Fruit and Maple OatmealMarketing Charts, a daily online publication devoted to marketing trends, reports that roughly half of all blog readers purchase products because they were mentioned in a blog they frequently read. Analysis firm eMarketer estimated that there were more than 3.9 million women blogging last year who also happened to be mothers. Those so-called “mommy bloggers” have banded together for a variety of campaigns ranging from sharing environmentally friendly cleaning tips to raising awareness of and funds to fight the effects of last year’s oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. In the past couple of years, marketers have gotten wise to the power and influence of mommy bloggers.

McDonald’s, that hamburger haven for many a small child, announced plans last week to do a healthy overhaul of the Happy Meal. The changes will reportedly cut calories by approximately 20% by decreasing the portion size of the French fries by more than half, adding apples, and providing a choice of fat-free chocolate milk or 1% low-fat white milk. The redesigned Happy Meal will not officially launch until September, but the fast food chain has already tapped the mommy blogger segment for its support.

“Mom bloggers are very networked and very linked-in,” said Rick Wion, director of social media for McDonald’s. “They spread information very, very quickly. Moms listen to other moms more than they listen to other folks.” Wion considers mommy bloggers to be “key influencers” and even believes that some of them have a bigger audience than a city newspaper.

The chain began recruiting mothers into their marketing mix back in 2007, with a program called “McDonald’s Moms Quality Correspondents.” The website for the program hasn’t been updated in a while, however; the “Latest Experience,” linked on the home page, involved the moms acting as baristas to learn about McDonald’s espresso drink line, which came out in 2009.

The company will recruit bloggers at the BlogHer Conference this week. The “citizen reporters” will go on field trips to the company’s corporate headquarters and to farms that provide foods for the restaurant. Last year, McDonald’s used the conference to help launch its oatmeal. BlogHer’s food section editor Genie Gratto told CNN’s Eatocracy blog that she approves of the involvement. Gratto said, “Actually including moms gives them the chance to raise the dialogue a bit.”

First Lady Michelle Obama, an advocate against childhood obesity, approves of the mommy blogger involvement as well. Mollie Hemingway, a self-described mommy blogger and former professional journalist, is still a little hesitant to support the movement. She writes on her Mommyish blog,

Often we value mommy bloggers because they are so, well, not unprofessional but because like raising our children well, our desire to help others do the same is on some level a labor of love. But like any other grassroots cultural movement, marketers see that authenticity as very valuable, and want to co-opt it… The rapid explosion of mommy blogs means that there’s certainly a lot of well-meaning folks that don’t necessarily think of their jobs in professional terms and can be easily wooed by corporate marketers bearing cash and/or free products. At the same time, I’m conflicted because frankly corporate marketers should be talking to moms about how to make their products better.

Source: “McDonald’s Lets Mom Bloggers Into The Kitchen,” Marketing Daily, 06/21/07
Source: “McDonald’s Turns To Mommy Bloggers To Smooth Over New Happy Meal Rollout,” Mommyish, 07/28/11
Source: “McDonald’s offers Mom bloggers a seat at the table,” CNN’s Eatocracy, 07/27/11
Source: “Bowing To Pressure, McDonald’s Makes Happy Meals More Healthful,” NPR’s Shots, 07/26/11
Source: “McDonald’s Courts Mom Bloggers When Changing The Menu,” NPR’s Shots, 07/27/11
Source: “Brands are listening to Mommy Bloggers, are you?,” Sacramento Press, 07/07/11
Source: “Harnessing the Power of the Mom Blogger,” The New York Times, 03/14/11
Image by theimpulsivebuy, used under its Creative Commons license.

About Rachelle Matherne

  

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  1. Rachelle,

    Nice piece of reporting. I have issues about close ties between “Mommy Bloggers” and McDonald’s. The Childhood Obesity News Blog examines McDonald’s, Kellogg’s, Nestle’s, and other food business giants and shows how they virtually engineer obesity into their marketing and their foods. They align themselves with think tanks and educational publications while they, themselves, are the cause of the problems they claim to be battling.

    The BlogHer Conference is also sponsored by Johnson & Johnson, Procter & Gamble, and Pfizer, among others. All those corporations have baggage that should trouble “Mommy Bloggers.” It seems with sponsorship comes compromise. I hope these close ties don’t alter the quality of reporting from blogger moms. They are credited with raising awareness on issues such as childhood obesity and product safety.