Some people (or iconic celebrities) never look cool, no matter what they wear. But, that does not stop them – or their publicity department – from trying. For instance, McDonald’s just unveiled their Ronald McDonald makeover, in which they make the clown look noticeably trimmer and attempt to give him more polish. Yes, they are trying to make Ronald McDonald more appealing and palatable to contemporary kids.
A large part of the makeover is Ronald McDonald’s attire. He has a new theatrical designer wardrobe in the old loud color scheme. Yellow might be in this year, but not his signature shade or when paired with red. The clown has slimmed down and no longer wears a baggy yellow clown jumpsuit. Instead, he has yellow cargo pants and a yellow vest accompanied by a red and white rugby shirt. For dressier engagements, there is a red blazer with a golden arches trim as well as a bow tie. Ronald’s hair is still flame red but a little more styled. His footwear is the only holdover element – the red clown shoes with yellow laces are still there.
McDonald’s really did hire a Tony Award winning theatrical designer, Ann Hould-Ward, to dress the clown. Hould-Ward won her Tony for the musical production of Beauty and the Beast. She was also nominated for Into the Woods and Sunday in the Park with George.
The makeover of the clown coincides with the upcoming makeover of restaurants worldwide over the next few years. They will have updated in-store graphics and design elements featuring the new Ronald’s image. His latest ad campaign will begin airing later this year in the U.S.
McDonald’s press release stated that “Ronald bring to life the fun of our brand.” They promise that “Ronald will continue to evolve to be modern and relevant.” Seriously? Would Darwin buy that evolutionary theory?
The restaurant chain is also trying to make Ronald appear Web savvy as he takes to social media channels around the world. He is into hashtags now, not hashbrowns! Yes, Ronald McDonald is going to try and attract followers on Twitter and rally the public with messaging, events and other stunts.
The timing is interesting as is the choice to trot out the clown. Sales are down in the U.S. Competitor Taco Bell has gotten a lot of attention from its parody ad campaign featuring real Ronald McDonalds – people who actually have that name – announcing they prefer the food at Taco Bell. Advocacy groups have tried to get McDonalds to abandon Ronald McDonald as a character used to market fast food to children. In their defense, McDonald’s says the makeover has been two years in the making.
The Ronald McDonald character first premiered in 1963 in Washington, D.C. Two years later, he made his first national TV appearance and became the U.S. spokesperson for McDonald’s in 1966. His image and name were added to the Ronald McDonald House Charities in 1974. His last redesign was in 2005, but was a minor one. This year’s complete makeover attempt with new duds and a new ‘do make him look a little less clownish, but it remains to be seen if they can make Ronald McDonald relevant to young consumers today.
Opinion by Dyanne Weiss