It’s not easy for me to admit this, as I am not really known as the “emotional type,” but I need to get something off my chest…McDonald’s made me cry.
Allow me to explain:
It was a Saturday afternoon and my daughter and I were out running through my ever-growing list of errands when I realized that it was getting to be lunch time. I was too far from home to head there to satiate the persnickety cravings of a three-year-old, so I thought we should grab a quick bite on the road and the first thing that caught my eye was the “golden arches.”
Here’s the thing: I have never actually taken my daughter to McDonald’s before. There, I said it. I’m a vegetarian for crying out loud and I generally just don’t eat this kind of fast food. Hell, if I’m really honest, I didn’t really think I was a fast food kind of mom. I mean we buy organic and love Whole Foods, could I really take my daughter to McDonald’s? These thoughts rattled through my exhausted brain as I found my blinker turning on and my car cruising—as if being controlled by someone else—into the McDonald’s parking lot. With one click of the car seat buckle, I grabbed my daughter’s happy little hand and off we went.
Once inside, without a thought, I ordered my little lady a hamburger Happy Meal. The exact meal my mom had ordered for me close to 1 bazillion times before when I was a child. I got myself a milkshake (because, why wouldn’t I?) and we proceeded to a little corner table by the window. As my daughter tore into her bag with excitement and discovered not only French fries and a hamburger, but a toy surprise, she was absolutely GIDDY! She looked at me with such earnest three-year-old eyes and said, “I like this place momma, a LOT.”
That did it. Here come the waterworks. The feeling of nostalgia hit me like a tidal wave and I started to tear up like this was some sort of milestone moment in my daughter’s young life. I remember thinking, “What the hell is wrong with you lady, get it together!” But I couldn’t help but remember all the “special” meals I had at McDonald’s as a kid. All the affection I had for the brand that lay latent for 20 some odd years was back … with a vengeance.
Once I got myself together and my daughter happily gnawed on her tiny bag of fries, I started thinking about it. Why did I react this way? I guess it was a mixture of nostalgia, and a deep brand connection that caught me completely off guard. As a recovering member of the ad agency game, I couldn’t help but think if agencies could figure out how to harness this kind of connection with consumers it would be like uncovering the Holy freaking Grail. But it’s a tough nut to crack and it seems like there are really only a few iconic brands that will ever have permission to live on this kind of hallowed ground.
So what do you think, what brands do you find yourself most strongly connected to? But WAIT, before you answer, I would challenge you to skip the first few answers that come to mind and REALLY think about it. The answers might surprise you as much as McDonald’s surprised me.