“In 2012,” writes Greg Beato for The Smart Set, “Ronald McDonald is essentially a clown without a country.” Beato is referring to the rapid modernization of the McDonald’s fast food restaurant chain, which has abandoned the primary-colored, dine-n-ditch, gee-whiz simplicity of its past and embraced chic aesthetics, comfortable ambiance, and more sophisticated flavors. As a symbol of McDonald’s garish past, Ronald is being left by the wayside. Quips Beato, “Amidst the sleek walnut paneling and modernist dining chairs, however, the chain’s longtime mascot looks less like a crown prince than a red-headed stepchild.”
Ronald McDonald’s “job” at the restaurant chain best show’s the company’s changing relationship with its diners. Beato explains Ronald’s career path from burger slinger to what amounts to a community outreach volunteer:
Demoted upwards to Chief Happiness Officer, Ronald has roughly the same job duties as First Lady Michelle Obama. He serves as the public face of Ronald McDonald House Charities, which provides housing to the families of hospitalized children. He promotes literacy. He engages in brief bouts of highly publicized physical activity. But his position with McDonald’s is equally defined by what he’s not allowed to do on behalf of the chain he helped turn into an international superpower. “He does not hawk food,” Jim Skinner insisted at the 2010 shareholder’s meeting. “He never does a hard sell,” reiterated Marlena Peleo-Lazar in [a] USA Today piece.
That only scratches the surface. Beato’s description of Ronald’s history at McDonald’s is well-sourced and extensive—all of it fascinating.
Source: The Smart Set