Ronald McDonald is one of the most recognized characters in the entire world, even if he is a clown (literally). While it may be hard to believe that a kind of homely, redheaded clown dressed in – how the hell do you even describe what he wears?– is that popular (especially with kids), but the fact is, he IS.
Ronald has been McDonald’s brand ambassador for decades, and kids and their families like Ronald. So, when a group of so-called “advocates”- Corporate Accountability International- called for the retirement of Ronald during a shareholder meeting a few months back, McDonald’s CEO, Jim Skinner, basically told them to take a hike. And you know what, that makes a heck of a lot of sense, because those people are not his customers. [As side commentary, it is my opinion that those lobbyists would be better served to start a parent accountability group and leave the damn corporations alone.]
There has been a lot of discussion about brand “haters” recently (Tim Ferriss has a great piece here). Every company will have its critics. But as long as you are listening to what your target customers want and need, you will be doing the right thing for your business.
In fact, I advocate ignoring bad and disruptive behavior, instead of rewarding it with attention. When my friend Erika Napoletano (of the brilliant Redhead Writing blog- she is snarkier than me, really) recently got the most absurd and misogynistic comment to a recent blog post from a radio station “dj”, I gave this advice, “Here’s my advice- nobody should contact Clear Channel. My guess is that nobody is listening to this ‘person’ (term used very loosely) and that he is probably trying to prove that he can stir up controversy. So, don’t help him keep his job. Ignore him- that will be the way he goes away…by being as irrelevant as he has already proven that he is.”
So, the next time you have a business challenge, make sure you are putting yourself in the shoes of a real customer, not the shoes of someone who just has a lot of free time on their hands.