How play touched hearts and opened wallets

When brands understand their greater purpose – their reason for being beyond simply selling stuff – it can lead to meaningful and lasting change to lives of people as well as profitable changes to the business itself.

McDonald’s first opened in Australia in 1971 and 10 years later the Ronald McDonald House Charity (RMHC) was established with a clear mission: to help seriously ill children and their families. This was wonderful: not only did it align with the McDonald’s brand as a family restaurant, it ensured that the most unfortunate families could also share in the surprise and delight other kids could enjoy any day at one of their restaurants.

Over the years, Ronald McDonald became a true icon of playfulness with Play becoming the heart and soul of the family marketing offering. At the same time, playful Ronald was the face of RMHC, bringing surprise and delight to seriously ill children across Australia.

Unfortunately, the world of quick serve restaurants changed and Ronald McDonald’s traditional role of helping and delighting children came under fire. Despite his iconic status, his presence became a lightning rod of protest against McDonald’s and their family marketing efforts. Consequently, he was put into hibernation.

McDonald’s tried for many years to find a way to bring him back without success. Eventually, Creata proposed a solution everyone agreed on: to relaunch him as the face of RMHC – a place where McDonald’s commitment to children’s well-being was beyond dispute and Ronald’s history stretched back decades. We also recommended his presence be clear at the single most important funding raising event for RMHC – McDonald’s McHappy Day to strengthen the visibility of this commitment.

Ronald was relaunched as his playful self, bringing smiles to audiences everywhere. Creata casted, trained, and managed Ronalds across Australia, appearing at over 80 live events annually, as well as visiting the special RMHC houses – places that are often subject to stringent health controls to protect the sick children.

Last year McHappy Day raised over $5.5 million, providing over 30,000 nights of accommodation, over 42,000 family visits, and over 1500 attendances at the special learning program each week to help children stay in touch with their learning while being treated for their illness.

All this, born from a clear understanding of a brand’s higher purpose and the confidence that a little Play can make a world of difference to both lives and the business bottom line.