McDonald's Hopes New Ads Will Have Customers Feeling the Love

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This story originally appeared on Fortune Magazine

Following a year of slumping sales, McDonald’s is banking on the power of love to spur a turnaround.

On Friday, the fast-food mega-chain unveiled new ads that expands on the company’s decade-old “I’m Lovin’ It” slogan by highlighting the “lovin'” aspect of the campaign.

“This new focus will inspire everything we do moving forward, from advertising and marketing to how we interact with customers in restaurants and on social media,” the company said in announcing what U.S. Chief Marketing Officer Deborah Wahl calls “a brand transformation.”

The revamped marketing push follows a tough year for McDonald’s, during which it reported declining revenue. To reverse the slide, the company has slimmed-down what many customers said was a confusing menu while adding healthier and fresher food.

New television and online ads will begin appearing over the weekend, McDonald’s said. One new spot the company posted online features a collection of odd couples — from a knight and a dragon to the Road Runner and Wile E. Coyote — coming together in harmony as they share a McDonald’s meal.

“Lately, the balance of lovin’ and hatin’ seems off,” Wahl said in a video posted online by the company. “Who better to stand up for lovin’ than McDonald’s? Lovin’ sits at the heart of our tagline and it sits at the heart of our business.”

There was no immediate word on how much McDonald’s will spend on the new ad campaign.

In addition, McDonald’s is hoping to build a closer relationship with customers by encouraging them to ask questions about the chain’s food. As an example of the social media campaign, the company listed this question: “What part of the chicken is a Chicken McNugget?”

“McDonald’s is moving from a philosophy of billions served to billions heard,” Wahl said in Friday’s video. She also highlighted the company’s recent efforts to scale back the size of its menu while introducing additional healthier dining options, including in its Happy Meals for kids.

The moves come as the world’s largest restaurant company faces increasingly stiff competition from other fast-food outlets as well as from a growing number of fast-casual restaurant chains. In November, McDonald’s U.S. comparable sales dropped 4.6% — a steep decline that even surprised analysts had prepared for a dip of only 1.9%. The company’s sales numbers for December have not yet been released, but some analysts think 2014 could be the first year of negative global same-store sales for McDonald’s since 2002.

Recently, a Fortune magazine cover story outlined some of the issues that have plagued the suffering fast-food giant in recent years. Last month, McDonald’s announced it would simplify its menu, removing several items and extra value meals.

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