Employer Branding

Employer Branding: The McDonald’s Vs. Disney Effect

To quote Will Ferrell from Zoolander; branding is so hot right now. Well maybe he didn’t say that exactly, but it’s close enough. It still doesn’t take away from the fact that branding is a hot topic currently. Thanks to social media hundreds of thousands of people are able to connect worldwide and discuss a company’s brand with one another. They may not be discussing that company’s marketing teams brand strategy, but they are discussing how they view the company. And after all, how people view your company is your brand.

When it comes to branding, it’s not about the substance of the issues at hand, it’s about the overall view society has on you that determines responses to major issues. To prove this I will use situations from two major companies as an example: McDonald’s and Disney.

The McDonald’s brand can be a tricky one. My personal opinion of the brand is McDonald’s is somewhere I can find a cheap meal quickly. I say tricky because I believe they do a lot of good in the world, but as far as I am concerned if I want a $5 meal right away I know where to go. Also, from my view point, most of their staff members are younger with not much real world experience. As a result there may be times where they don’t act with the proper decorum, no fault of their own, it’s how young people act. I take this into account when viewing their brand. This is my personal viewpoint, but I have to imagine most readers can relate.

So when word got out that McDonald’s employees could potentially get a minimum wage increase to $15 an hour what was the response? The company received tremendous negative backlash to the move. People were arguing how completely unacceptable this was. And why was that? Because why should school kids or older employees with limited skills justify $15 an hour minimum wage? And how would this impact that $5 burger? Will I be required to pay more out of my pocket? These were some of the issues that arose from this situation.

Now let us take a look at the Walt Disney Company. What does their brand look like? Most people probably have fond memories. They recall Disney movies or amusement parks from their childhood that make them feel good about the company. And as adults we can pass down these positive experiences to our children. Disney has built a brand around positivity and happiness.

Did you know, that in October of 2015 roughly 250 technology employees at the Walt Disney Company were laid off? This was not your standard lay off, however. Not only did these employees lose their jobs, but before they officially left the company, they were required to train their foreign replacements.

That’s right, Disney was laying off US employees because hiring foreign workers would be cheaper and allow Disney to save money. And not only were they doing a layoff, but they were forcing the recently fired employees to make sure their foreign replacements were properly trained. This was enforced by withholding severance compensation from the fired employees until their foreign replacements were trained successfully. So if you think you could take the money and leave, not so fast. Disney not only fired these employees, but held them hostage. Can you imagine how humiliating and uncomfortable of a scene that must have been?

Now let’s do a quick exercise. I’ll give you the following two scenarios and you determine which company you support more:

  1. Company A increases the hourly wage for thousands of their employees.
  2. Company B fires hundreds of employees, but makes them train their foreign replacements first.

Without getting results to the above scenario I think I can determine the company that most people would support more.

2016 is a presidential election year and if you look at some of the top issues by voters, our economy is a constant. In fact, a poll by Gallup listed the economy as the top issue in the 2016 election. And many other polls place economy issues as a top 5 topic with voters.

So if the majority of America is worried about the US economy, why do they have so much disdain  for a company trying to improve the economic status of its employees like what would happen in the McDonald’s situation? And look so positively on a company like Disney that is hurting the US economy by increasing the unemployment rate and giving jobs to foreign workers at a cheaper cost?

The answer is quite simple: branding. While the economy may be a hot button issue for the country right now, they don’t care as much about Disney’s acts because Disney has branded themselves as “The Happiest Place on Earth”. Meanwhile McDonald’s is stimulating their employee base with wage increases. However people don’t view this as a positive because $5 burgers just don’t give off that same warm and fuzzy feeling.

And it all comes down to one thing: a talking mouse makes us feel much better than a clown does.

By Chadd Balbi

Chadd Balbi is a seasoned recruiting professional with extensive experience in full life cycle recruiting and business development in both Corporate and Staffing environments. His emphasis is on strong recruiting, business development and client relationship focus. Specializing in the IT staffing industry. Follow Chadd on Twitter @CFBRecruiter.