Client: McDonald's India
PR Team: Corporate Voice Shandwick (CVS)
Campaign: Crisis management
Timescale: May 2000 - ongoing
McDonald's had problems after Indian-American lawyer Harish Bharti, on
behalf of one million American Hindus and 15 million other vegetarians
living in the US, filed a class action suit against the burger chain
alleging the company had knowingly used beef products in its French
To affirm that McDonald's India does not use animal products in any of
its fries or other vegetarian products. To disassociate products served
in McDonald's India from those in the US. A special menu has been
developed for Indian franchises that completely segregates vegetarian
and non-vegetarian products
Strategy and Plan
When the story broke on 4 May, news hit the front pages of all major
Indian newspapers, seriously jeopardising the brand's reputation.
A 24-hour crisis management team was immediately established in Delhi
and Mumbai, with supporting teams dotted around the country. CVS issued
an emergency media statement highlighting the key messages surrounding
the case. All outlets and offices were instructed to direct media
queries to a 24-hour crisis hotline.
Within hours, a thorough top-down briefing had gone out to all
McDonald's employees, suppliers and business partners. On 5 May, press
conferences were held in Delhi and Mumbai, attended by the two
joint-venture partners for those areas, Vikram Bakshi and Amit Jatia,
and by their respective French fries suppliers, McCain Foods and Lamb
Weston. The latter firms confirmed they also supply French fries to
other major hotel and restaurant chains in India, including several
Indian-owned chains, such as the Taj Group, ITC Hotels and Nirulas.
The crisis team also spoke to pressure groups that were calling for the
closure of all 27 branches. Security measures at branches across the
nation were stepped up following aggressive protests in Mumbai and
A poster campaign targeted at consumers went up in all outlets,
reassuring them that McDonald's French fries and all other vegetarian
products used in India are 100 per cent vegetarian. This ran alongside a
supplementary advertising campaign in two of India's leading
In subsequent days, food tests were initiated by the crisis management
team to further dispel public fears about the products.
The results showed that both the French fries and the RBD Palmolein oil
used for frying were free from any kind of animal product.
Measurement and Evaluation
The quick response, clear messaging and proactive strategy extinguished
much of the furore. Product testing ramped up media support
considerably, resulting in some reports questioning the political
motives behind the demonstrations. As national and international queries
continue to come in, reports so far remain objective.
According to the crisis management team, the crisis is now firmly under
control and it is business as usual for most outlets. TV crews that have
interviewed consumers have found them 'extremely supportive' and still
positive towards the brand.