Why McDonald’s Failed to One-Up Burger King’s Redesign
The fast-food giant’s revamped packaging shows it’s still too timid to fully adapt to the times
This is shaping up to be the year of the fast-food rebrand. First, Burger King unveiled a sharply executed redesign on January 7, announcing a total revamp across the entire brand, from its logo and packaging design to an updated digital and social media presence. It was an immediate smash hit, nodding back to the company’s classic 1969 logo while signaling the brand’s transition into a more digital-friendly brand. Less than a month later, on February 16, Burger King’s archrival McDonald’s followed suit and revealed a fresh new take on its product packaging. Much like its rival’s rebrand, which was a bold, retro, and colorful take on flat design, McDonald’s new packaging is… a bold, retro, and colorful take on flat design.
This isn’t mere coincidence or copycatism: Flat design is a trendy visual style that’s been adopted by brands like Apple, Instagram, and Netflix over the past decade. It embraces two-dimension illustrations, bright colors, and simplicity to limit the noise created by too many visual details. Gone are the bevels, shadows, or textures, replaced by simple vector-style graphics and reduced reliance on typography to convey the message. This minimalist approach delivers information more effectively by being less intrusive on the eye, perfect for the digital space where customers are increasingly found and won — including for fast-food giants like McDonald’s and Burger King, who are growing their app presence.
Created in tandem with brand design agency Pearlfisher, the McDonald’s packaging focuses on simplistic visual elements that pull out the most iconic elements of the chain’s menu, such as the Big Mac, Egg McMuffin, and the McFlurry. The concept aims to play on the positive emotions these products ideally invoke in McDonald’s customers. As Matt Sia, creative director at Pearlfisher, explained, “We aimed to find the most special, recognizable, and iconic expression of each — celebrating them in a way that makes people smile.”
As part of a wider strategic move for the company, Pearlfisher has made the packaging more connected and evocative of…