A close friend of mine and I talked quite a bit about challenging the destructive power of MacDonald’s, the ubiquitous symbol of animal exploitation. We wondered if it were somehow possible to influence MacDonald’s to go vegan, something which would cause massive ripples the world over.
It’s a difficult idea because MacDonald’s is powered by profit, and I am unsure if the shareholders would even let the company make such a move if it tried. But it’s an interesting thought.
Easier to imagine was a different company, which would challenge MacDonald’s while being as much as possible ethical, ecological and vegan. Basically, you’d try to create a universal appeal, hooking the sort of people who go to MacDonald’s onto veggie burgers that were made to taste just as good as meat burgers, or better.
One thing that would give such a company an edge over MacDonald’s and its other competitors would be price: vegan ingredients are cheaper than meat. However, this is in part only theoretical because the big companies have some pretty huge economies of scale and even subsidies working on their side. You’d have to battle against the tide before you got to a similar place of advantage.
And no mistake: part of MacDonald’s universal appeal is price. This idea would involve attempting to compete on that area, which would mean a lot of cost cutting and very smart maneuvering.
The fact is I’m unsure if it’s even possible to do the same thing as MacDonald’s has done in an ethical, ecological way. At the very least, if someone took this idea all the way it’d have to be someone with a thirst for “playing the business game”, more so with this idea than with any other of the ideas I’m writing up here. I also wonder if the immense ingenuity and energy needed to do this could be much better spent on other world-changing projects.
But the potential benefits are good too. Potentially, a conscious person who succeeded with this business could control resources which could be used to change the world. Where big businesses like MacDonald’s lobby governments to subsidise meat and reduce restrictions on how cruelly they treat animals in the name of profit, this company could lobby governments to remove subsidies on meat, making competition fairer, and get stricter on standards for the treatment of food animals.
Where MacDonald’s brainwashes children to eat meat, the advertising budget for this company could be used to enlighten people about the problems with eating meat and propose itself as a solution.
Basically, it would be using a large corporation’s mandate for profit as a tool to fight for animal welfare.
Could it overcome the cut-throat nature of such large business and keep its good intentions about it? Could it even succeed in such an environment while still having good intentions? I don’t know. But it is an interesting thought.
Marketing The Vegan MacDonald’s
I’ve thought about how this company would be marketed and it’s a tricky question.
I rather like the name “V Burger”, imagining a large distinctive V in green thrusting out of the foreground and surrounded by plants.
Marketing the restaurant would be walking a fine line between appealing to everyone’s obvious concerns about the problem of meat eating and fast food in general, and creating an image which still appeals to everyone, even the most intractable fast-food junkie.
Particularly I think there’s some truth to the idea “junk food tastes so good because it’s bad for you”. There’s that goody-two-shoes image related to vegetarian and healthy food which puts people off.
In order to counter that, I think V Burger (or whatever it ends up being called) would need to cultivate an image of being a bit… badass.
Marketing could appeal to people’s desire to feel strong by taking on a slightly combative tone against the sort of thing we’re fighting against. “50% of global warming is caused by our eating habits. Don’t be a fool – eat at V.”
I wish I could make a better example. Just imagine all that masculine image that takes on a slightly rebellious tone with normal burger joints – hey yeah, we’re eating burgers, so what, we’re just that rebellious and macho and cool and hip, deal with it – and turning it against a real enemy – hey yeah, we’re eating right so we can stop our environment going to hell, we aren’t going to be dumbasses like the rest of you guys, this new generation isn’t taking your shit any more, deal with it. It’s a raw idea, but I think it could be refined into something good if someone put some real marketing work into it.
Eating at V Burger could be a statement – just like most normal companies strive for in their marketing efforts. The difference is that this company could be the driving force behind a real social movement, and if it succeeded in capturing popular attention, could be a very powerful social force, changing the pervading culture for the better the world over.
After all, how much of our current culture is shaped by forces such as MacDonald’s and Coca-Cola? Like it or not, they have a huge power over our lives. If this idea were implemented and succeeded, it would be harnessing that power – normally wild and uncontrolled – for a conscious cause.
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