Tag Archives: McDonald’s

IT ISN’T ROCKET SCIENCE – Creating a Big Tent for Clinical Trials

I just celebrated three years working in the pharmaceutical space. The simplest explanation of what I do is to market strategy and communications that drive product awareness and, ultimately, customer purchase of a suite of clinical trial solutions.


In layman’s terms, I advertise solutions that help get medicine to the market faster.  In my role, I have no contact with patients or involvement with the implementation and/or execution of clinical trials.  However, this access that I am granted does give me a special perspective.


I had a conversation with an individual whose job is to lead clinical trial diversity for a large pharmaceutical organization.  This individual was sympathetic and resolute in how they face the challenges associated with achieving the application of diversity in the trials that their company implements.  However, they pointed out that the necessary allocation of resources and commitment was the greatest and most daunting challenge they face on an ongoing basis.

“I am able to make compelling arguments (to my superiors) in favor of diversity in clinical trials. But without a model that shows an immediate return on investment, the need is nothing more than a conversation without a resolution.”


In another example of industry complacency, I reflect on the global and domestic industry conferences, seminars and meetings I have attended.  As part of their programming, they offer what is billed as the “patient perspective.”  This is typically a panel or round-table discussion that includes patients who are trial participants. Without exception, the patient representation did not include people of color.  When I questioned this lack of diversity, the responses were a mix of bewilderment as to “why” I would ask the question and an often-repeated refrain of we could not find any minority patients.


How do we understand the impact of drugs on race when the minority participation in trials is underrepresented?


According to the U.S. Census, Black or African-Americans represent 13.4% of the U.S. population.  The FDA has reported only 5% participation in clinical trials by the same population.  This under-representation suggests not only a systemic industry problem, but (it) begs a larger and more important question — Are new medications effective and viable for all populations?  The racial composition and make-up of individuals enrolled in trials that lead to approval of drugs must be comparable to the overall population.  This is especially true if the medication is going to be effective once approved.


New York Times opinion columnist Charles Blow was the first to raise the issue of racial disparity in his April 1st column, The Racial Time Bomb in the COVID 19 Crisis.  My conclusion was that, under normal circumstances, it was vitally important to address the challenge of finding ways to increase minority participation in clinical trials.  Given the onset of the pandemic and its affects on African-Americans, it is absolutely critical.  Diversity and inclusion is not a nice thing to do. It is a bridge to building trust with what has historically been, with good reason, a skeptical and resistant audience.


Change starts at the top.  I experienced this first-hand while working on the McDonald’s brand.  While the company is best known for selling hamburgers and soft drinks, it has also been the benefactor of unprecedented powerful consumer connections.  McDonald’s understood that there is never one simple solution to building a trusting relationship.  But by demonstrating community commitment, engagement and investment, McDonald’s was able to effectively tap into what its brand stands for in the hearts and minds of African-American consumers.


Dr. Althea Maybank, the American Medical Association’s Chief Equity Officer and Group Vice-President sums it perfectly in the NBC News article, “A COVID-19 Vaccine Will Work Only If Trials Include Black Participants.”


“With any relationship, you build it,” she said. “Folks doing work from leading institutions have asked, ‘How do we build trust?’ Well, it’s not rocket science. It’s about building relationships. Are you getting to know me beforehand? Are you speaking in a language I understand? Are the concepts broken down so that they are digestible? Are you present? Are you giving resources to our neighborhoods beforehand? That’s not rocket science. It’s building a relationship. That’s how you build trust. And trust is a fundamental value in humans. There’s no rocket science behind it.”


The Intimacy Between McDonald’s and the African-American Community


There is an intimacy that exists between the African-American Community and McDonald’s that is quite remarkable and noteworthy.

It is a relationship that, from a pure marketing perspective, is unprecedented and compelling.

While food is always central to the conversation, this conversation also includes community, heritage, cultural pride, accessibility, acceptance and optimism.

It isn’t captured in a commercial, though there were times when McDonald’s nailed the “essence of the special relationship” in that format.

It is an unspoken “nod” that says,

“We’re a part of your family…your community – we’ve always been in your community – and like any good friend, we’re always here for you”.

Yes, there is a special intimacy that this brand has with African-Americans (and Latinos) that is bigger than the products it sells.

Authentic is always “in”…especially in times of crisis.


From the Rodney King riots in 1992 to the upheaval and unrest in Ferguson today, McDonald’s proves that it does more than sell good food.




“In the wasted landscape of South Central LA, everything had been destroyed. Everything except for five buildings. In the post-apocalyptic aftermath, surrounded by smoldering ruins and debris, there were five buildings which had been untouched. Not a broken window. Not a slash of spray paint.  All flooded in their usual operable fluoro lights.

These five buildings all had one thing in common. They were all McDonalds.”

‘When the smoke cleared after the mobs burned through South Central Los Angeles in April, hundreds of businesses, many of them black owned, had been destroyed. Yet not a single McDonald’s restaurant had been torched.’

Click here to read Chuck Ebeling’s full blog post, Rodney King Death Today Reminds of a Positive Lesson From LA Riots




“…McDonald’s, typically framed with large windows, also serves as an ideal safe zone amid heavy-handed police crackdowns, said Mitchell.

“It’s a fairly comfortable place, it’s a place they’re familiar with, lots of people go there and, in a different way, it’s a place that’s easily surveyed,” he said. “It’s a safe place, it’s so much in the public eye.”

It’s a little hard to tell whether we should be glad that McDonald’s is serving a useful public cause, or utterly depressed that traditional meeting places like libraries and local sandwich shops have been replaced by a corporate behemoths like McDonald’s and Starbucks.

(Click here to read the full HuffPost article, “How One McDonald’s Became The Epicenter Of The Ferguson Conflict“)


In full disclosure, I am a McDonald’s supplier.

I have worked for McDonald’s local Co-Ops specializing in the areas of African-American and Ethnic Marketing.  The experience has afforded me the opportunity to view the brand up close and personal for thirty uninterrupted years. At the core of what differentiates McDonald’s is the Owner/Operator – men and women who do more than sell food. In many instances, they are active and visible participants in the communities where they do business.  They act as parents, advisers, counselors and active supporters of their communities.




Paul & Carol…Introducing The Dollar People

“The Dollar People” expect, demand and, have figured out how they will get more for their dollar…literally.Giving credit where it is due, I have to acknowledge two McDonald’s franchise owners for “introducing me” to The Dollar People.

Thank you ladies.

Let’s start by answering the question, “Who Are the Dollar People?”

In the first example, we’ll use a McDonald’s Restaurant and a man named Paul.

Paul goes to a McDonald’s, orders a McDouble, Sweet Tea and small fries.

Three Dollars.

Several moments go by and Paul returns to the counter.

In his hand, a McDouble that is 3/4 eaten, yet he presents the sandwich at the front counter while swallowing one last bite and says,

“This McDouble has onions…and pickle. I’m allergic to onions. Didn’t want pickles.”


Yes, Really.

The end result is that Paul got another sandwich…for free.

Getting more for a dollar.

In this, yet another example, we’ll use a neighborhood Shop Rite and a woman named, Carol.

I went to the Shop Rite supermarket for three things.

What they were is not important.

I ended up with nine items and therefore figured the 12 items only express lane was my best bet.

Note to self – I’ll be in and out in no time at all, or so I thought.

In front of me, was Carol with a cart holding more than 12 items.

Maybe 30?

Note to self – This is going to take more than a few minutes.

Waiting to put her things on the belt, Carol was eating a bag of potato chips.


Prior to emptying her cart, Carol apparently decided she had enough chips.

After one last big mouthul, she brushed the excess crumbs off on her pants, neatly folded the chip bag, closing it and deposited it in the magazine rack between The Globe and People.

Getting more for a dollar.

Fifteen minutes passed – Carol argued with the cashier

…about the 47(!)items in her cart (vs the 12 item limit)

…the 25c per can discount she believed she was entitled to.

…and for the 15 cans of soda that were part of her order.

To add insult to injury, Carol ended up not having enough money and ultimately had to decide ‘which’ of the 47 she simply had to do without.

When it comes down to it, I suppose there is a little bit of the dollar people in all of us.

It may very well be as simple as different degrees of dollar people.

Think about it.

Haven’t you on more than one occassion, and with increasing frequency, reached a point where you expect and, in many instances, demand that you are not going to pay full price for anything
unless you really, really have to?!

Have you argued a financial advantage/settlement over a minor infraction, and felt justified because (you felt and believed) you deserved the small victory?

It feels good to “beat the system”…and get away with it.

It is like there is a little voice in your head that whispers

“If someone is going to come out on top today, don’t you think it oughta be me?”

No argument there.

Getting the most for your money is not only smart.

It is the unmistakeable sign of a savvy consumer.

However, stealing is the sign of a thief.

A post-racial America. Really??

If Black people were to wring their hands in disgust, protest and offense as a result of every racially inappropriate remark or gesture they were subjected to, the country would be embroiled in riots and disorderly conduct of unimaginable proportions. While no doubt inappropriate, Senator Reid’s comments in the book Game Change regarding President Obama did not cause Black people, other than Michael Steele, to cry foul and “go off.” Besides, in his case, he was simply “carrying his party’s water.” But I digress.

The truth of the matter is that racism in America is still alive and well in 2010. What is different today is that most Black people – at least the ones that I know – are not content to sit on their hands and play the role of victim. The realization that the old adage about teaching old dogs tricks rings very true to most. This is to suggest that there is a greater understanding today than ever before among Blacks about change. If change is to occur, it is going to have to come from us and not those who are steeped in ignorance and self-hatred.

The point is not to suggest that these attacks – that is, after all, what they are, attacks – should be ignored or simply swept under the rug. It is not that simple or easy. Once one has been subjected to the injustice of racial discrimination, no matter how subtle or overt, it conjures up a memory. Like the residual smell after a house fire, it lingers and occupies an indelible place in the brain that can be recalled with very little strain or provocation. So, the change that I referred to is akin to developing a thicker skin and a greater sense of one’s own identity. In doing so, we foster a greater understanding of ourselves, but more importantly, we have the power to enlighten the ignorant. Enlightenment comes in many different forms, but I have found it to be most effective when demonstrated through actions and deeds, not words. My own belief is that as a Black man, I have an obligation to exceed other’s expectations of me. My mother is famous for doling out clichés. My favorite of these is “No one can walk on your back if you are standing up straight.”

I was in Detroit last week and had a conversation with Errol Service, a McDonald’s franchise owner. We discussed among other things, how one lives an authentic life and what is really important. In the course of the conversation Errol said, “In 2010, I am living my life as if I only get one take.

It turns out that he had spent time watching a motion picture being filmed on location. He was surprised at the number of takes it took to film just one scene in order to “get it right.” He said that it prompted him to think of his life as if he were making a film in which he only got one take. He explained that not only did it cause him to take stock in everything that he does, but it has also affected the way he interacts with people on an everyday basis. He has also started spreading this philosophy to his peers and employees in an effort for them to up their game and be their very best.

This philosophy makes sense and speaks directly to the change I am talking about. We have to own our identities and take full responsibility for what we do and the way we live our lives.

A close friend shared a copy of This I Believe: The Personal Philosophies of Remarkable Men and Women.

The book is a collection of personal essays based on the National Public Radio series of the same name. This I Believe is filled with beliefs about what is truly important to this collection of people from all walks of life. While I have yet to finish the whole book, I was struck by one of the essays, “Leaving Identity to Other Folks,” by Phyllis Allen. The brief essay is poignant and personal, containing moments that we all can relate to, but, in my opinion, the last line of the essay is the perfect summation of this conversation – “What you have to do is be the best that you can be.”

“Standing in the rain waiting to go up the steps to the balcony of the Grand Theater, I gripped Mama’s hand and watched the little blond kids enter the lobby downstairs. It was the fifties, I was “colored,” and this is what I believed: My place was the balcony of the downtown theater, the back of the bus, and the back steps of the White Dove Emporium. When I asked Mama why this was so, she smiled and said, “Baby, people do what they do. What you got to do is be the best that you can be.”