Same clown, new clothes: Is that the main takeaway of McDonald’s newest makeover of its brand ambassador Ronald McDonald?
Gone are the lumpy yellow jumpsuit and Where’s Waldo-esque sleeves. In its place is something a Weasley twin might wear -- mustard cargo pants and a red-and-white striped rugby shirt. For “special occasions,” there’s a bow tie and a red blazer festooned with golden arches and Ron’s signature.
He still wears gloves. He still clops around in giant red shoes. His substantial hair is still blazingly loud. It might be a bit sleeker, though.
Is he still creepy? Just ask yourself if you’d let him date your daughter.
But if clothes make the man, this one at least has some showbiz pedigree. The character’s new duds were designed by Ann Hould-Ward, who has been nominated for two Tonys and won a third for dreaming up the costumes for the Broadway staging of "Beauty and the Beast."
Creating the outfit for Ronald the drive-through don, however, was “one of the highlights of my career,” Hould-Ward said in a statement.
McDonald’s is giving the character an active presence on social media for the first time since he debuted with a television appearance in 1963. He’ll use the hashtag #RonaldMcDonald and will tout his mission statement of “fun makes great things happen.”
For years, the clown has mostly concentrated on being the ever-so-white face of Ronald McDonald House Charities. His last redesign was in 2005.
But McDonald’s is in need of a refresh.
On Tuesday, the company – which sailed comfortably through the recession – said its profit in the first quarter tanked 5% while sales at stores open at least a year slid 1.7% in the U.S.
Rival Taco Bell has deluged the airwaves with commercials featuring 25 real-life Ronald McDonalds who prefer the Mexican-style chain’s new breakfast options to those at McDonald’s.
Later in 2014, McDonald’s will send its spruced-up clown onto the tube in its own advertisements in the U.S. Within the next few years, new and remodeled restaurants will be able to incorporate the character into in-store graphics, furniture and décor.
“Customers today want to engage with brands in different ways, and Ronald will continue to evolve to be modern and relevant," said McDonald’s senior vice president Dean Barrett in a statement.