What raised eyebrows say about branding

The latest TVC by Leo Burnett for McDonald’s – ‘Raise Your Arches’ – directed by filmmaker Edgar Wright, has attracted universal acclaim from the creative industry since its release just a few weeks ago. Most notably for the decision to leave out its world-famous menu and fast-food restaurants in both 60 and 30 second spots. But what’s made it so successful?

It’s not the first brand to go product-free in its ads. Think Kenzo World by Kenzo – the multi-award-winning perfume ad with no perfume in sight Kenzo World . It’s not even the first ad to ‘raise eyebrows’. Remember the Cadbury eyebrow dance? Cadbury’s ‘Eyebrow Dance’ advert. Just one of many food-free ads in the ‘glass and a half full of joy’ campaign.

Eyebrow Dance (Cadbury)

Product free TVCs – Kenzo World (Kenzo); Eyebrow Dance (Cadbury)

Along with McDonald’s, these ads all have a couple of things in common – like evocative musical choices, and a concept that gets viewers hooked till the very end. Let’s also not forget subtle brand cues purposely and artfully worked in, like clothing colour and clever prop choices.

But the McDonald’s ad goes even further, creating a new brand asset within the advert itself that could be set to become as ownable as the ‘golden arches’ itself. Which raises the question (or should that be eyebrow)…

What is a brand asset anyway?
In theory, it’s anything that reminds people of your brand.

Which means it’s ideally something that’s easy for people to recognise, or even replicate, so your brand comes to mind. Like the shape of raised eyebrows, which works effortlessly to signal the unmistakable curved ‘M’ that McDonald’s unequivocally owns as a brand – not to mention the emotion behind it which makes it even more lovable.

But the real mark of a good brand asset is when it comes up in everyday conversations with family and friends, real people. Real-life McDonald’s customers. Inspiring people to talk about it, laugh about it, share it, and ultimately make it their own, for all the right reasons.

With this universally understood facial expression, it’s only a matter of time before a double raised eyebrow becomes code for ‘let’s get McDonald’s’ (if it’s not already). When that sort of brand buy-in and behaviour shift happens, you know you’ve delivered a pretty powerful brand asset, to say the least.

Other brand campaigns have proved this approach works, too. Embedding an idea – and by association, the brand – into global culture. Budweiser had similar success with ‘Whassup’ Budweiser Original Whassup Commercial , and Reebok with ‘Belly’s gonna get you’ Reebok – Bellys gonna get ya!. Each becoming classic sayings in their own right.

Other examples of memorable brand advertising – Belly’s gonna get you (Reebok); Whassup (Budweiser)

Campaign support
McDonald’s has nailed a simple yet beautifully on-brand idea, hinging on the link between their iconic logo and the shape of expressive raised eyebrows.

So much weight has been put behind this campaign that McDonald’s has even changed its famous golden arches logo on a number of UK social channels, and physically updated signage at two key restaurant locations as campaign tie-ins. Really nice touches.

Sadly, it’s not every day we see this level of branding at play. And let’s face it, not every brand could pull it off. Why? Because it relies on some pretty hefty brand equity to make it work.

But it shows the faith McDonald’s has in the creative concept (and their creative partners), and the reach of their supporting campaign activity. Even without the support of two key brand assets we’re used to seeing and hearing – the ‘I’m loving it’ strapline, and famous five-note whistle sign-off.

The science behind the art
It’s no surprise this eyebrow-raising ad campaign is smashing it – with strong performance in both brand recognition and positive emotional response, as well as the showing potential to boost short term sales.

According to Marketing Week and System 1, the campaign achieves an “exceptional” brand recognition score of 98 versus an average of 91, and above average feelings of happiness in response to the advert hitting 41% against an average of 38%.

The ad doesn’t aim to fulfil all requirements of a successful campaign, nor should it. Working alongside co-ordinated activity across restaurant locations, social channels and paid ad platforms will no doubt see the campaign hit home and convert into a few extra fries on the side for the brand.


Alex (Senior Art Director) and Fiona (Senior Copywriter)