McDonald's: A-Plus Parents = A-Plus Kids
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McDonald's: A-Plus Parents = A-Plus Kids

MWW convinced the 200+ NY Tri-State McDonald’s owners to initiate a grassroots campaign that created ownership for McDonald’s in their local communities and supported an issue that resonated with customers to generate good will.

Paul Holmes

MWW convinced the 200+ NY Tri-State McDonald’s owners to initiate a grassroots campaign that created ownership for McDonald’s in their local communities and supported an issue that resonated with customers to generate good will in the communities in which they do business.  Research identified family involvement in education as the basis for a sustaining social marketing program.  MWW created the McDonald’s A+ Parents=A+ Kids branded initiative to promote family involvement in education through a series of activities: an awareness campaign; family reading incentive program; teacher grants; and a program to recognize family members involved in their child’s learning. 
Partnership for Family Involvement in Education (PFIE) was a third-party endorser and the Arching Into Education Council, an alliance of McDonald’s owners and educators, served as contributors and judges.  MWW leveraged the 630+ local McDonald’s restaurants; the Internet; 5,700 schools; and media to saturate the market and raise program awareness.  McDonald’s A+ Parents=A+ Kids was a hit and surpassed original objectives – 650,000 local consumers participated/directly received information on McDonald’s education programs; 51,634 unique visitors to and 111.6 million local media impressions.  Most important, the initiative, supported by a brand typically considered “too promotional” was embraced by educators who requested McDonald’s A+ Parents  = A+ Kids materials to share with students’ families.  Based on this year’s success, the 220 McDonald’s owners in the NY Tri-State area agreed to support the program in 2002.
MWW’s charge is to create programs to make the 630+ McDonald’s in the NY/NJ/CT Tri-State area synonymous with education.  McDonald’s restaurants, individually, have historically supported education through scholarships, Ronald school visits and reading incentive programs – many of which were developed by MWW.  Each year, MWW surpassed expectations for McDonald’s program publicity and participation.  For 2001, MWW’s overarching communications objective was to deliver a greater return on owners’ PR investment.  Challenges included:
  • Positioning McDonald’s support of education in a way to generate both quantity and quality coverage while increasing opportunities for involvement by McDonald’s owners.
  • Convincing McDonald’s owners that a sustaining social marketing program with “arms and legs” would continue to generate publicity in the community, influence brand perception and position McDonald’s as a good corporate citizen.
  • McDonald’s owners did not see value in spending money on college scholarships – the flagship program of MWW’s public relations efforts, which generated significant media coverage.  MWW recognized an opportunity to brand and tie together all of McDonald’s education initiatives under an umbrella theme and do more with less money while tying activities back to the 630+ restaurants.
MWW conducted a research study of New York Tri-State consumers with school age children.  The goal was to identify education issues that resonated with families, important education issues that McDonald’s could own, programs consumers were looking for, and programs in which they would likely participate.
  • Across all respondents “family programs” ranked in the top 10 under-met program needs.
  • 82% said programs that enhanced parent/teacher relationships were important. 
  • McDonald’s ranked high in community involvement characteristics (“Give back to the community”, “Supports kids”) when compared to competitors. 
  • Respondents suggested using the restaurants to keep consumers updated on community programs.

Family involvement in education was clearly an issue that resonated with consumers.  Research from a recent PTA survey and National Commission on Children study supported the primary research.

  • 91% of parents said it’s “extremely important” to be involved in their child’s school in order to get a quality education
  • 72% of students age 10 to 13 said they’d like to talk to their parents more about schoolwork
  • Community support is important to getting parents involved in their child’s education
Research determined an opportunity for McDonald’s to “own” family involvement in education.  Educator insight was key to creating programs that teachers would find valuable in affecting family involvement in education.  MWW conducted focus groups with local teachers and discovered:
Getting families involved at the school level was important to teachers but they often lacked resources to execute programs and activities to foster family involvement.
Teachers constantly look for programs that reward for reading.   In fact, teachers said that programs that encouraged families to read together was key to fostering students’ reading habits.
Families want to get involved but they often do not have the information on how to get involved.
Teachers welcome “company sponsored” education programs that are not “too promotional” and can be incorporated into current curriculum.  Teachers like the McDonald’s A+ Parents Essay Contest because it helped make their “Narrative Writing” curriculum fun for students.
  • Promote McDonald’s support of an educational issue that resonated with customers.
  • Leverage 630+ McDonald’s restaurant, 5,700+ local schools, the Internet and local media to create an “everywhere you look” buzz for McDonald’s A+ Parents = A+ Kids.
  • Drive traffic to local McDonald’s restaurants.
  • Link McDonald’s A+ Parent = A+ Kids to the 220 McDonald’s owners supporting the program.
Planning & Strategy
MWW developed McDonald’s A+ Parents=A+ Kids – a yearlong community initiative to promote the importance of family involvement in education.  The branded initiative encompassed four specific programs: 1) an in-store awareness and publicity campaign; 2) the McDonald’s Together In Education (TIE) Grants Program that funded teacher activities promoting family involvement; 3) the McDonald’s Check It Out Summer Reading Program which educated families on sparking good student reading habits and rewarded families for reading together; and 4) the McDonald’s A+ Parents Award Essay Contest for students to recognize family members involved in their education.  MWW’s plan for McDonald’s A+ Parents=A+ Kids was comprehensive programs were executed at different times and targeted different student age groups and featured third-party endorsements.
Maximize audience reach and ensure participation.  From teachers, we learned nurturing family reading habits were most important for elementary students (Check It Out Reading Program) while developing writing skills (A+ Parents) were important for middle school students.
Ensure a sustained campaign.  MWW executed one program per quarter so there was constant McDonald’s activity to promote family involvement.  This also ensured McDonald’s programs did not compete against each other for media or educator attention.
Enhance the credibility of the program.  MWW/McDonald’s partnered with the Partnership for Family Involvement in Education (PFIE), the U.S. Department of Education’s umbrella organization with the sole responsibility of advancing family involvement in children’s education.  PFIE served as a third-party spokesperson, judged the grants and essay programs and provided program information.  MWW also created the Arching Into Education Council, an alliance of McDonald’s owners and teachers from the focus groups to serve as sounding boards for McDonald’s A+ Parents = A+ Kids.  The Council also judged the TIE Grants and A+ Parents Award Essay Contest.
MWW leveraged the 630+ Tri-State McDonald’s Restaurants, the Internet, the network of nearly 5,700 elementary schools, middle schools, high schools, educators and media outlets in the NY Tri-State area to saturate the market and raise awareness for the A+ Parents=A+ Kids program.
  • McDonald’s A+ Parents=A+ Kids branded logo on store, school and media materials.
  • “We’re Involved In Your Child’s Education - Are You?” window cling-ons at 630+ restaurants
  • Top-down communications approach to schools: information to superintendents/principals with ways to incorporate the program into existing curriculum; formatted for easy teacher copies
  • TIE, Check It Out, A+ Parents Award, A+ Parents=A+ Kids family involvement tips displayed in the restaurants quarterly though posters, trayliners and window-clings.
  • featured program information, family involvement tips and a PFIE link
  • Store-traffic drivers (Happy Meal reward coupons for families who read five books together; publicity on application availability in the McFamily Activity Center located in the restaurants)
  • In-store promotion to celebrate “National Parent Involvement Day” (Nov. 12): local McDonald’s restaurants offered free Happy Meals to families who came in to eat together (downloadable coupon from
  • Interviews with McDonald’s owners/third-party spokespersons on family involvement in education.
  • Publicity campaign targeting local media, educator publications, parent/teacher web sites.
  • Encouraged McDonald’s owners to encourage visits to local schools/community leaders to distribute McDonald’s A+ Parents=A+ Kids information.
Since implementing the A+ Parents=A+ Kids brand, McDonald’s has reached a new level of success in promoting its commitment to education and dedication to improving the local communities where they do business.  In 10-months:
  • 570,000+ Tri-State consumers participated in programs/directly received program information
  • 51,000 page visits to
  • 100+ million customers exposed to McDonald’s A+ Parents=A+ Kids in-store materials
  • 111.6 million media impressions in NY/NJ/CT Tri-State print/broadcast media with 498 articles
Program evaluation tools to measure program efficacy and keep us on target:
  • Quarterly Arching Into Education Council conference calls (hear program reactions “from the field”)
  • Monthly McDonald’s meetings (program updates; learn how programs are being received in stores)
  • “McDonald’s A+ Parents=A+ Kids” consumer hotline.  Based on calls from parents asking about TIE Grants (for teachers only), we opened the 2002 TIE Grants to PTA/PTO members looking for funds for their family involvement activities.
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