If it’s not evident that fast food chains like McDonald’s are struggling to stay relevant, particularly to the youth market, meet Happy, the new McDonald’s Happy Meal mascot.
Happy was introduced on Monday in a tweet as McDonald’s “newest friend.” But unlike Ronald McDonald, the clown mascot for the chain since 1963, Happy is not a person, but is instead an animated red McDonald's Happy Meal shaped box with large teeth, eyes, hands and feet. And it’s causing quite a stir.
The Los Angeles Times reports that the criticisms have not been kind to Happy: “some Twitter users weren't so friendly, responding with gems such as: ‘I didn't want to sleep tonight.’ Another user wrote: ‘That is not right with God’."
The simplicity of the design is also receiving its share of criticism: "Someone stuck a mouth on the box. How many years was this in development?”
TakePart’s food editor, Willy Blackmore called it “a maniacal grin,” and he wondered whether or not Happy will be able to “convince kids to buy into the ‘healthy’ agenda,” he said, adding “But behind that exaggerated grin—and the half-baked efforts at reducing the amount of processed sugar and other calories in its foods—is a company that’s dealing with a popular culture that’s increasingly skeptical of its business and consumers who appear to be less interested in eating its food.”
McDonald’s rebuffed the backlash in a statement, saying, "social media is a great place to have a conversation and express an opinion, but not all comments reflect the broader view."
The leading fast food chain also recently launched a “healthier” option for its Happy Meals, Go-GURT Low-Fat Strawberry Yogurt. “The potential french fry swap has 50 calories in a serving and, according to the press release, 25 percent less sugar than other popular yogurt brands. The actual amount of sugar, however, is conspicuously missing,” wrote Blackmore. “[L]ike its creepy new mascot,” he said, it doesn’t “smack of a marketing plan that’s going to be a blockbuster hit.”
Find Jill on Twitter @jillettinger
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Image via McDonald's