McDonald’s Donation is Smartest Marketing Spend Ever

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The audio and video of Charles Ramsey mentioning McDonald’s (NYSE:MCD) over and over will be played for decades to come — many more times than any in-house marketing campaign that McDonald’s could dream up. Ramsey saved three women held captive for a decade in Cleveland while eating  McDonald’s and now the company is rewarding him with free food for a year at his local restaurant, CNN Money reports. McDonald’s has just scored its largest and cheapest marketing campaign ever. Ramsey was eating at his local McDonald’s restaurant just before he saw a woman screaming for help and trying to break out of a house. Carrying his “half-eaten Big Mac,” Ramsey leapt into action and the rest is history.

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Ramsey is a humble man and quite a character. This — combined with his heroic actions — made him a star on social media. Memes featuring Ramsey have quickly spread throughout the Internet. McDonald’s could not have planned a better grassroots media campaign: Everyday heroes eat at McDonald’s.

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Charles Ramsey is so popular online for his actions that one man got a tattoo of Ramsey’s face

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Ramsey turned down a cash reward for rescuing the kidnapped women, saying “I tell you what you do, give it to them [the kidnapped women]. Because if folks been following this case since last night, you been following me since last night, you know I got a job anyway. Just went picked it up, paycheck.” With a reward off the table, local restaurants quickly decided to give Ramsey something he would use and not mind accepting — free food. More than a dozen restaurants have said Ramsey eats free for life, the AP reports.

But what will be the long-term, financial impact on McDonald’s from all of this? That is hard to measure. Instead of focusing on what Ramsey’s popularity brings to the company’s balance sheet, we should be focusing on what Ramsey brings to the company’s long-term image. Whenever McDonald’s comes up in popular culture now, everything will be thinking about how Charles Ramsey was eating a Big Mac when he saved three women. If McDonald’s is good enough for a hero like Ramsey, isn’t the fast-food chain’s food good enough for you and me?

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McDonald's stock price 3 months 5-26-2013

Graph courtesy of Yahoo! Finance

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