Does Report Card Marketing Get a Passing Grade?

Clutter, clutter, everywhere. How do we reach audiences that have become fragmented and are inundated with marketing messages daily? We seek new, different platforms to make contact with elusive consumers. So, one can hardly fault McDonald's for its efforts with one Florida school system to reach young people by paying for printing of report card envelopes. The envelopes include a coupon for a free Happy Meal and are distributed to students with good grades, outstanding attendance records, or exemplary behavior. This tactic certainly passes the challenge of getting around the clutter problem as McDonald's has entered what is usually a commercial-free zone.

Not surprisingly, children's advocacy groups and some parents are upset that McDonald's is seemingly going against its pledge to curtail marketing toward children. Indeed, Big Mac is walking a fine line between clever marketing and intrusive commercialism. It is unfortunate that school systems are even put in the position of having to consider corporate support as a funding source, but in many communities this kind of involvement by the private sector may be preferred over tax increases as a way to provide money to schools.

Another concern is that McDonald's and the school system are promoting consumption of products that possess little nutritional value. McDonald's could have anticipated a possible backlash to this program, with a possible alternative to offering a Happy Meal being to offer a healthier menu item (I know, maybe a stretch at McDonald's) as a reward. Some observers believe the fast food industry may become the next tobacco industry as a target by government regulators. Fast food marketers such as McDonald's must be very careful to not engage in marketing tactics that raise the call for greater government oversight of the industry. Link