24 August 2010

It's time for Ronald McDonald to retire to the old clown's home

I recently listened to a lecture on marketing and the fast food industry. Ray Kroc, founder of the McDonald's corporation, was quoted saying, "If my competitor is drowning, I will walk over and stick a hose down his throat." Yikes. Sounds pretty clear that he is in the business solely for the money, and doesn't care who he steps on along the way. I can't argue that McDonald's has risen to fast food super stardom, probably due to that 'no sympathy' attitude, and some very clever marketing tactics. One such marketing ploy was first introduced in 1963, and he is affectionately known to us as Ronald McDonald.

Ronald McDonald was one of the very first attempts to market directly to children. He has since been used for charitable and educational campaigns alike. After hearing the aforementioned quote, I think it's a safe assumption to say that these programs were not initiated with the most altruistic intentions.

Since his inception, the innocent looking clown has helped bring children into the McDonald's fast food chain for nearly 50 years. He offers a 'Happy Meal' that is promised to be filled with delicious food and an entertaining new toy. What he really is providing, in those innocently packaged 'Happy Meals' is a one way ticket to poor health.

The food in that little box has been strongly linked to heart disease, obesity, cancer, diabetes, and more. What once used to be called juvenile diabetes, which is the condition in which the body is not able to make its own insulin, is now called Type I diabetes. This is to avoid confusion, since many children are now being diagnosed with Type II diabetes, which is a different pathology in which the body becomes resistant to insulin. This used to be termed adult onset diabetes, but now must be dubbed Type II diabetes, since so many children are being diagnosed with this form. And what is causing this insurgence of diabetes? Poor diet and lack of exercise in our youth is certainly a strong contributing factor.

When kids are targeted by this friendly clown, and are not educated on what he really represents, we can't blame them. We can blame McDonald's though, they are marketing geniuses. They know that if they win a child's loyalty, they will have a customer for life. That's precisely why they make their child-friendly mascot so visible to kids. “Back in the days when we first got a company airplane, we used to spot good locations for McDonald’s stores by flying over a community and looking for schools. Now we use a helicopter, and it’s ideal," explained Kroc.

Ultimately parents are responsible for what they feed their children. But I believe that McDonald's has a responsibility to take accountability for their actions of targeting children with this clown mascot and his very, very SAD meal.

You can take action and help send Ronald to a speedy retirement here: http://retireronald.org/

Lori Zito is a certified holistic health and nutrition coach, a yoga instructor, and a physical therapist. Learn more at her website, or follow Lori on Facebook and Twitter.

Photo Credit: screen capture