John Tantillo, The Marketing Doctor, Says Ronald McDonald is the Perfect Spokesperson for Childhood Nutrition.

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Despite the controversy, the famed McDonald’s clown’s best years as an advocate for healthy eating and anti-obesity should lie ahead and reactionary do-gooders must be ignored, says Dr. John Tantillo, the New York City branding and marketing expert.

It takes decades to build up this kind of recognizability and it would be sheer stupidity to squander it by retiring Ronald.

Despite recent controversy, the famed McDonald’s clown’s best years as an advocate for healthy eating and anti-obesity should lie ahead and reactionary do-gooders must be ignored, says Dr. John Tantillo, the New York City based branding and marketing expert.

Wading into the ongoing controversy surrounding the news, as reported by The Wall Street Journal, that 550 health professionals had signed a letter to get rid of McDonald's longtime clown/spokesperson, Ronald McDonald, John Tantillo argues that getting rid of Ronald would be wasting a golden opportunity.

According to the Wall Street Journal, the letter, which initially ran on May 18th as a full-page ad in six big newspapers, has put McDonald's marketing in the national cross-hairs. The signatory health professionals argue that McDonald’s must retire its clown and get rid of its Happy Meals because this kind of “marketing can no longer be ignored as a significant part” of the obesity health epidemic.

John Tantillo, whose Fat Santa campaign gained nationwide attention in previous years, argues that the clown is too valuable a resource to get rid of:

“It takes decades to build up this kind of recognizability and it would be sheer stupidity to squander it by retiring Ronald. And have these healthy food signatories even thought about what this would do to the incredible influence of Ronald McDonald houses on cancer care?”

Tantillo acknowledges the increasing government and societal pressure on food makers to stop marketing high fat, high sugar foods to kids, but argues that contrary to the perception, McDonald’s is actually in a great position to “pivot on a dime” and turn Ronald McDonald into one of the world’s greatest childhood nutrition advocates.

According to the Davie Brown Index, compiled by Omnicom Group’s Marketing Arm, 99% of U.S. consumers recognize Ronald. Tantillo says, “The signatories on this letter and those who think like them are simply not thinking creatively. But I guarantee that McDonald’s will, because McDonald’s is one of the greatest marketing forces in the world and being one of the greatest marketing forces in the world means being adaptable and meeting customer need.”

He continues, “Far from retiring him, McDonald’s can re-invigorate Ronald by enlisting him in the campaign against childhood obesity. In fact, the entire company is set to become a huge force for good in a healthy eating campaign. They’ve already shown what they can do in terms of weaving in healthy choices into their standard menu and then promoting these options.”

Tantillo advises that “Ronald can endorse moderation, healthy choices, and balance. Cereal companies have been dancing this dance for years, weighing the attraction of sugary, “fun” foods with the need to provide nutritional value. He can also help make the case for increased parental responsibility in nutrition matters so that food companies don’t increasingly be seen as de facto parents and the only ones responsible for food-related problems."

Tantillo concludes:

“Bottom line, Ronald McDonald should go nowhere but up from here. This is Ronald’s moment and rather than go into damage control, McDonald’s needs to lead the crusade –but on its own terms, not those of reactionary health do-gooders.”

John Tantillo Ph.D. is a marketing and branding expert, who markets his own services as The Marketing Doctor. He is the author of the book, People Buy Brands, Not Companies.

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