The phrase ‘burger flipping’ has for some time been an insult, used most often as a reference to a person’s lack of ambition or low skill level. So common is this jibe that it has even landed a place in the satirical Wikipedia foil Unencyclopedia, where it is defined as:
“A highly skilled profession that involves superheating an amorphous patty of mechanically recovered livestock matter on both sides so that it is burned black on the outside but is still red-raw and humming with bacteria on the inside. Associated tasks include placing said patty on a stale, sugary bun, masturbating into mayonnaise and asking ‘Would you like fries with that?’ Allied trades include pizza delivery, pool cleaning and jizz mopping.”
Given that these negative connotations dissuade Kiwis from applying for jobs at the food chain, Chris Hutton, the director of HR and talent at McDonald’s NZ, says that it makes it difficult to attract talented individuals to start their careers at the company.
“Through recent research we carried out we identified that many New Zealanders would not consider McDonald’s as a place to work for them or their children,” she says.
But despite the stigma attached to the fast food chain, Hutton says that “McDonald’s is one of the nation’s largest employers, and for many people, their first employer”.
So, in an effort to subvert the preconceptions attached to working at the company, McDonald’s has a launched a new campaign via DDB that gives viewers a look at some of the success stories that have emerged from starting a career at one of the stores.
Hutton says the YouTube videos, which feature a series of short comments from Kiwis who have advanced their careers under the golden arches, show viewers how much potential there is to grow while working for the company.
“The reality of what it’s like to work at McDonald’s doesn’t match up with the perception. McDonald’s is viewed as a minimum wage employer, but crew can move off minimum wage within 12 weeks. Over a third of franchisees and the current and last managing director started as McDonald’s crew. [And] 60 percent of head office employees have moved up from working in our restaurants.”
Hutton says that the campaign isn’t only designed to attract new employees, and that it also serves to motivate those currently working at the various franchises throughout the nation.
“The new employment brand campaign is both internal and external facing,” she says. “For our crew it’s about inspiring them and empowering them to consider the opportunities that exist. The outward facing campaign includes print and digital executions, and videos featuring our people, and their stories. It’s about getting people to reconsider what working McDonald’s means and the complexity of the ‘burger flipping’ business.”
The campaign, dubbed ‘Think again’, is currently hosted within McDonald’s online career hub and features a range of information on working for the company. Visitors to the site can apply for jobs, and those already working at McDonald’s can learn more about the training opportunities available through the company.
“For many of our people, McDonald’s will be their first job, and in many cases they will have little or no secondary or tertiary qualifications,” says Hutton. “McDonald’s provides highly regarded, NZQA-accredited training and clear career paths for its employees. Qualified restaurant managers can now cross credit training towards papers in a business degree or a diploma with Massey University.”
In launching the campaign, McDonald’s is essentially attempting to rebrand the image of working at the company. And while this is a new move for the fast food chain, it's something that the cafe industry has already done quite effectively. Previously, those who prepared coffee at cafes throughout the nation were in many ways on par with a waiter or frontline staff at take-away joint. But through the emergence of barista culture and celebrating the skill involved in making a good flat white, the Kiwis working as baristas now have a sense of pride about their jobs.
McDonald’s has since 1998 also tapped into the barista trend via its McCafe brand extension.
“Justin Baek from our Rotorua McCafe is one of New Zealand’s top 12 baristas,” says Hutton. “Justin features in the campaign and is a fantastic example of some of the outstanding talent we have in our restaurants.”
And although the company concedes that flipping budget burgers will never be regarded as a desirable job on par with preparing coffee with beans imported from the hills of Colombia, the new campaign aims to make the point that flipping burgers is a means to an end, and that a mundane job today could lead to something better in the future.
And in age when ‘do what you love’ has become a ubiquitous phrase among millennials who believe that a greater calling awaits them, the campaign is also a reminder that getting to the stage of doing what you love usually includes a few steps of doing what you hate along the way.