Last year, McCafe held the highest market share in the coffee industry. Their low-price selection of coffees proved extremely popular, combine that with the presence of McDonalds in most towns and cities and the hugely popular American arm of the business and you have a winning formula. Surely the quality and popularity of it’s coffee alone should be enough for advertising purposes? The quality of the most popular coffee brand should surely form the platform for its very advertisement. Apparently not…
The most recent McCafe advert takes a negative view of McDonald’s competition. The advert promotes the idea that other coffee outlets are: Over-priced, complicated, underwhelming, served in poor quality venues and pretentious. The slogan at the end of the McDonalds video chimes ‘Great taste in coffee. Simple’. As with most adverts however, this is a gross oversimplification of the truth and conveniently ignores the facts about third wave coffee in particular.
Before analysing the advert and the coffee it is worth noting that McCafe coffees are made with 100% Arabica beans (a high grade of coffee bean!). The beans are sourced by Gavina Coffee of California and their website proudly displays the origin of the coffee that they source, it is both of respectable quality and ethically sourced. When I visited my local McDonalds recently I purchased a small black Americano without sugar for £1.29. The result was what I expected for a mid-range machine bought coffee. It did not, however, compare favourably to any third-wave coffee outlet offering I have consumed in terms of taste (one of which I had already tasted on the same day) nor aroma. However, the content of the advert itself is what leaves the most bitter taste in my mouth.
In belittling third-wave coffee houses, and indeed pretty much any other coffee retailer, McDonalds also fail to see the broader picture. Third-wave coffee houses promote good quality coffee with high quality service in a welcoming environment, not machine made coffee in a quantity-over-quality environment. A single shot espresso can be purchased for just £0.79 at McDonalds, which compares favourably to all the other coffee outlets on the high street according to UCC Coffee’s price watch. However, it also has to be acknowledged that McDonalds pay their staff a measly £6.32 per hour starting rate, 47 pence lower than the average barista wage in the UK (277 respondents).
Whilst third-wave coffee outlets may charge more per cup of coffee, they also ensure that the barista serving you is knowledgeable and skilled in making the perfect cup just the way you like it. When visiting high street coffee chains like Cafe Nero and Costa, the baristas take care in making sure they pay the same level of attention to detail to each cup. No such knowledge is needed to press a button on a machine which makes the coffee for you. Specialist knowledge and equipment costs money and requires training and dedication; autonomy does not. That McDonalds recently boasted that they were investing in more coffee machines for their outlets should not be treated as good news, rather as an indicator that they see human interaction and skill as a non-essential part of the coffee experience. As a direct result of the training and dedication of many baristas, advice is always available should you need it. You are seldom left to ponder a long and complicated menu alone and a good barista is more than capable of informing the customer about which type of drink or blend of coffee would suit their tastes.
As I have previously discussed, third-wave coffee outlets are rising in popularity in the UK. They offer a unique product and the option to experiment with your normal coffee selection in contrast to bigger chains. As a direct result, the price of a coffee is understandably higher. However, in three years of exploring third wave coffee outlets, I have never encountered a shop charging £9 for a coffee as McDonald’s advert implies (even in Geneva where prices are high to begin with!). The prices are in line with the quality of the product and the option to have a simple filter coffee still provides the consumer with a cheaper option. As with much of the McDonalds advert, the many positives of the coffee market in the UK is disregarded to promote the McCafe brand.
The McDonalds advert is well wide of the mark and, in slighting other coffee outlets, lowers itself to an almost political level. The tactics of many recent political candidates have centred around creating negatives about others rather than speaking positively of themselves. When used here, such negative advertising tactics only beg the question: What are McDonalds trying to hide?