Survey: McDonald's new Happy Meals gain favor with parents

In the lead-up to the rollout of its new Happy Meals, which now automatically include apple slices and kid-sized portions of French fries, McDonald’s raised its brand perceptions among parents with young children, according to a new study from YouGov BrandIndex.

Ted Marzilli, senior vice president of New York-based BrandIndex, said McDonald’s improvement from its lowest parental “buzz score” of 10.3 on Feb. 10, to the 26.5 figure on March 5, when it announced the rollout of new Happy Meals, is “well beyond statistically significant.” BrandIndex considers any movement greater than four to five points as meaningful.

Watch McDonald’s new Happy Meal commercial; story continues below

BrandIndex calculates its buzz score by surveying 5,000 American consumers each weekday and asking, “Have you heard anything about this brand in the past two weeks, and was it positive or negative?” Negative responses are subtracted from positive responses, and a moving average is calculated on a scale from negative 100 to positive 100, with zero denoting neutral buzz for a brand.

The research firm broke out buzz scores for parents with young children living at home and noticed an increase in parental buzz scores for McDonald’s, due in large part to its Happy Meal initiative, the company said.

“Part of the recent improvement I think is because of anticipation,” Marzilli said. “The Happy Meals are ready to go nationally, and McDonald’s is launching a national campaign, but the announcement was made about eight months ago.”

Last July 26, when McDonald’s announced it would alter its Happy Meals to meet stricter nutrition guidelines, the brand’s parental buzz score was 17.8 and stayed at a plateau around that level for months, before falling steadily beginning in late September. The brand began 2011 with a much lower parent buzz score of 8.2, having just been sued the month before by the Center for Science in the Public Interest.

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