Weighing in on Ronald McDonald’s Social Relevancy


Very few people are accepting of change at the onset but it looks like fans of McDonald’s are going to have to accept it. This past Wednesday, McDonald’s announced that it would be featuring Ronald McDonald, its iconic mascot, on its Twitter page through photos and video content. While the actual character would not be given its own Twitter page, the company stressed that it would tweeting out with the hashtag #RonaldMcDonald.

 Weighing in on Ronald McDonald’s Social Relevancy

Perhaps the biggest takeaway from this story was that Ronald McDonald would be receiving something of a makeover. While his white makeup and big red shoes aren’t going anywhere, his yellow bodysuit will be swapped out for a dressy vest and yellow cargo pants. It can be debated that this in an attempt by McDonalds to add relevancy to a character that’s been around since 1963. On the surface, this is an understandable endeavor to undertake. After all, every generation of kids is going to take kindly to long-standing characters at various levels.

With that said, no matter how much effort the McDonald’s Corporation puts forth, can Ronald McDonald be deemed, “socially relevant?”

First of all, the basis of Ronald McDonald is simple: he’s a happy-go-lucky clown. It’s hard to say, though, that clowns are as relevant now as they were a number of decades ago. Krusty the Clown from “The Simpsons,” for example, was one of the most recognizable characters from 90’s television. Bozo the Clown reached his apex in popularity around the time that Ronald started to make his rounds on TV. Internet marketing firms may agree that clowns are looked at somewhat differently these days.

From what I have seen, most clowns in the mainstream today – as few as they are – appeared to be played more for fright as opposed to lightheartedness. For example, the Joker from the Batman franchise is viewed as one of the most popular clowns in fiction, whether discussion of said character is tailored to the character from “The Animated Series” or Heath Ledger’s frighteningly effective 2008 interpretation.  While those who are in their 20’s and 30’s understand that clowns are meant for humor, it might be difficult for children to make that distinction; this doesn’t help the fact that many children, and even adults, fear these jovial performers.

It’d be easy enough to say that McDonalds should do away with Ronald and utilize a trendier mascot. After all, this is the same corporation that owns the rights to Grimace and the Hamburgular, so it’s not like the company is short on identifiable entities. However, it can be argued that this is opportunity to play up Ronald for nostalgic purposes. Maybe he shouldn’t be used to appeal to newer generations. Perhaps he’s meant to tug at the heartstrings of those who recognize him from when they had spelling tests. Given the fact that Ronald has been around for a little over 50 years, simply scrapping the character would be unwise.

Do you think that Ronald McDonald is socially relevant enough to stick around for the purpose of appealing to new generations?

On the flipside, do you believe that this iconic character is running low on fuel as we approach the midway point of 2014? Please leave your thoughts below.

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