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When asked about the “most popular” or “typical” American food brand, what immediately comes to mind?  Growing up in small-town Ohio, I experienced the joys of any average American child: happy meal toys, the PlayPlace, the familiar smile of Ronald McDonald, the soft-serve vanilla ice cream in a wafer cone and the golden arches growing smaller in the distance through the car window.  I didn’t know then that McDonald’s was way beyond just a typical, American brand.

In the U.S., 15,290 McDonald’s restaurants are lined up near interstate highways and in the centers of metropolises and rural towns.  They have clientele generally made up of working to middle class families and typically view it a tasty yet cheap and unhealthy meal option.  Despite skyrocketing obesity rates in the U.S., Americans covet their Double Cheeseburgers and Dollar Menu French fries amongst other processed and fast foods than in any other country.  In 2004, the documentary film “Super Size Me” threw the McDonald’s brand into an abyss of controversy and criticism further tarnishing the international franchise’s name.  For thirty days, Morgan Spurlock ate McDonald’s three times a day and recorded the mental, physical and emotional effects the trial lifestyle had on him.  He gained twenty-four pounds, suffered addiction-like mood swings, sexual dysfunction, fat accumulation in his liver, and increased cholesterol and body mass.  After the film’s release, the company’s “Would you like to Super Size that?” mentality deteriorated and a movement towards “healthier” eating began. 

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While greatly established and successful in America, McDonald’s has proven to also be an international phenomenon.  According to Forbes.com, McDonald’s is the largest global fast-food chain with 18,710 international restaurants in 118 countries.  Interestingly enough, the opinion of McDonald’s as cheap and unhealthy as well as demographically similar to America is not necessarily parallel in other countries of the world. During my semester abroad in Prague, my professor of Advertising and Society compared the reputation of McDonald’s in the Czech Republic versus America several times throughout the course.  Qualitative and quantitative research shows that McDonald’s is a brand consumed mostly by the middle to upper classes of the Czech population.  It is seen as a “special” meal to be had compared to their traditional fare of potato and bread dumplings, beef goulash or pork schnitzel and sauerkraut.  Usually lower in calorie count (a 40-point discrepancy between American Big Macs for example), burgers have higher quality meat and more vegetables (sometimes including cucumbers) in Czech McDonalds’.  Other traditional Czech foods like fried cheese are side options on the menu.    

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McDonald’s in China is generally unhealthier than in America, but has a wider demographic of clientele.  They have a reputation for having delicious featured items such as spicy chicken wings and sweet taro pie (the equivalent of the American apple pie.)  Many other region-specific items exist in McDonalds’ around the world including: the Poutine in Canada, the Paneer Cheese Wrap in India, and the Bulgogi Burger in South Korea, just to name a few.  

The different demographics of clientele, culturally unique featured items, and varied nutritional reputations of international McDonalds’ are all attributed to the global appropriation of the brand.  García Canclini describes appropriation as the change of meaning when an object is consumed under a different circumstance.  He also describes deterritorialization as the way in which categories can travel beyond its origins, in this case McDonald’s expansion into other countries since 1967.  The deterritorialization of McDonald’s has contributed to its reputation as one of the most renowned global companies.  Canclini also describes reterritorialization as “ … tendencies [,] represented by the local demands of social movements … and mass media processes …” (93.)  The most obvious example of reterritorialization is the culturally unique featured items at each McDonald’s location.  International branches of McDonald’s are epitomical to such ideas and the consequence of reterritorialization resulting from deterritorialization. 

Like any international brand, each region has its interpretations, standards and affects on it.  Like Dasom mentioned, Canclini emphasizes the importance of reinterpreting common themes in other countries in order to get more consumers.  This has mainly contributed to McDonald’s overall success.  McDonald’s is by far one of the few most universally recognizable brands while uniquely specializing and diversifying its products to fit cultural preferences.

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