A few, small but noisy, have a score to settle with their boss, Ronald McDonald.
February 28, Bloomberg reported that some McDonald’s franchisees claim that the chain’s latest celebrity promotion, the Cardi B and quirky meal, violates a set of internal rules, known as the “Golden Arches Code”. Because of this, they are calling on McDonald’s to stop selling the meal, saying the family restaurant chain partnering with an artist whose songs contain profanity and explicit content “will hurt the brand”.
The meal promotion kicked off just before the Super Bowl when McDonald’s released an announcement about the partnership ahead of Valentine’s Day. In the accompanying announcement, the couple, who have been married since 2017, share their date night order.
This includes Cardi B’s order of a cheeseburger with barbecue sauce and a large Coke, and Offset’s preference of a quarter pound with cheese and a large Hi-C Orange Lavaburst. The order also includes an apple pie and a large order of fries to share.
According to a 2021 copy of the Golden Arches Internal Code reviewed by Bloomberg, “partnerships with celebrities and influencers who pose a potential risk of harming our brand based on statements they have made or their positions on certain issues” are not authorized by the brand, although franchisees who have this issue would not be specific about the positions held by Cardi B or Offset that led them to speak out.
Reps for Cardi B and Offset did not immediately respond to TODAY.com’s request for comment.
The code states that “music partnerships associated with content that includes offensive language in the lyrics” are also not permitted. It should be noted that McDonald’s previous partnerships – with BTS, which used swear words in some songs including “Cypher Pt. 3”, J Balvin, which explores sometimes controversial sexual themes in its music and videos, and “Rick and Morty”, an adult cartoon that has included many instances of “offensive language” – all seem to violate this code.
“It’s kind of a culture shock when you consider the McDonald’s brand over the years,” Dick Adams, former McDonald’s restaurant owner and consultant to franchisees, told Bloomberg. “Especially if you’re a franchisee and you’re 50 or 60 and you don’t have kids and you haven’t been exposed to any type of these lyrics.”
According a copy of the Golden Arches code Acquired by Business Insider in 2020, the global set of marketing, advertising, legal, and branding policies has quite a few interesting rules. One rule states that Ronald McDonald “cannot be shown or visit a nightclub or lounge”, and another prohibits the use of the nickname “Ronnie”, but many other rules cover trademarks, logo colors and Moreover.
When contacted for comment, a McDonald’s USA representative confirmed that the negative comments came from a small group of franchisees and were not representative of the widespread support and enthusiasm among franchisees across the country.
“McDonald’s supports our partnership with Cardi B and Offset. They have been amazing partners and we support them as family,” the rep told TODAY.com in a statement.
The brand also noted that safety is a top priority, adding that it is always thoughtful in what it posts on McDonald’s chains and careful to avoid language that could offend.
“In all of our marketing, we strive to put McDonald’s at the center of culture. Artist collaborations have helped rekindle fan love for our food and fueled significant business momentum for both the company and our restaurant owners/operators,” said Tariq Hassan, Director of Marketing and McDonald’s USA customer experience, to TODAY.com in an emailed statement. “And the reason they’ve been so successful is because our partners are genuine fans of the brand themselves – that authenticity is our secret sauce.”
The company also said it partnered with Cardi & Offset because it believed they would help build excitement for the brand, adding that it had experienced significant buzz around the new campaign.
Previous “famous set” partnerships have brought significant business to the company. In fact, the Travis Scott Mealwhich included a quarter pounder with bacon and cheese, fries and a Sprite, was so popular it caused burger shortages in 2020.
In 2021, the BTS meals led to a significant increase in sales of Chicken McNuggets. And in 2022, the Cactus Plant Flea Market Box (aka the Adult Happy Meal) helped drive the highest weekly digital transactions ever for McDonald’s in the United States. This partnership has even led some customers to list the free toys included in the meal on eBay for exorbitant sums after the meal quickly sold out.