[written by ISA Staff Member Halie Kay Vermillion]
“McDonald’s Ice Cream Woes Have Inspired Memes, Mockery and Now, a Federal Lawsuit”The New York Times
When was the last time you realized that your words hold power? I know that question doesn’t necessarily ring new to anyone, but what if I told you that your words are $900 million powerful? That grabs your attention, doesn’t it?
Melissa Nelson and Jeremy O’Sullivan, founders of the Kytch Company, filed a $900 million lawsuit against McDonald’s on March 1st for, “defamation [as well as] false advertising and interference in its contracts with customers” (Businessinsider.com).
Kytch was created to fix the remote operating systems in McDonald’s Ice Cream Machines which, as we know them, are notorious for always being broken. The issue is, over the years, McDonald’s has both mistreated Kytch (that is, according to Kytch’s lawyers) along with having allowed misinformation to spread through the mouths of humored consumers.
In a tweet posted by McDonald’s on August 11, 2020, it’s clear that even coporate McDonald’s understands the stereotype they have created for their company. The tweet reads, “we have a joke about our soft serve machine, but we’re worried it won’t work.”
Through comments such as these, a hurtful impression has been left on Kytch as, although their machines have proven to work, it appears as if they are the ones who have failed the beloved fast-food chain. It is actually the Taylor Company who creates the machines, but through the jokes and flippant remarks consumers have grown to aimlessly toss, it is the company branded as the fixers, Kytch, who are the ones assumed to have failed.
The striking realization through this recent lawsuit is first, the way in which coporate offices react through their communication is often too clever for the crisis they are catering to. McDonald’s thought crafting clever remarks would brand them as the humorous company, but in the midst of attempting to relay competent communication, another company was misappropriated.
Beyond the need to research corporate communication effects thoroughly (which is evident has yet to be done by McDonald’s), it is also clear the power consumers carry.
McBroken, a website created so you, “Don’t Get McShammed” will tell you what machines are working, broken, unavailable, or Jack in the Box. According to current stats taken from 13 March 2022, “10.37%” of American, McDonald’s ice cream machines are currently broken.
You know that there is a problem when the consumers are making money off of another company’s failure!
For young communication professionals, clear communication in times of ‘ice cream crisis’ serves to be crucial, and if done incorrectly, can lead to the most expensive ice cream cone to exist: one worth $900 million.
Maintaining a professional relationship with your public and stopping the chain of comments before they spiral takes staying ahead of the consumer. Don’t allow your consumer to drive your communication. Yes, consumers are the gatekeeper to your success as they are the lifeblood of financial flow, but it is also through the mouths of consumers that lies spiral into liabilities. In terms of Kytch v. McDonald’s, the power held in the consumer’s humor may cost $900 million, and that’s a lot for a broken ice cream machine.