McDonald’s and Coke Show You the Way

This recent advertising trend takes minimalism to the max. Both McDonald’s and Coke ran outdoor campaigns this year that used pared-down branding elements as directions. It’s a clever branding idea — and one that requires brand recognition to do some serious heavy-lifting. Don’t try this one at home — unless you happen to work for Nike.

McDonald’s first started using the Golden Arches as highway directional signage with a Canadian campaign in 2018. This summer, they took it a step further with another iconic element of branding — fries! That’s right, McDonald’s branding is so strong that one of their most popular products can represent them just as well as their actual logo.

The fries work perfectly for this concept — they can invoke hunger, which is great when the goal is to lure weary travelers to the nearest McDonald’s. They also look a lot like lanes of a highway, which makes this a bulletproof visual metaphor. And even boiled down to this super-minimalist state, the fries in their signature red box are instantly recognizable. Who wouldn’t want McDonald’s after seeing these billboards on a long road trip?

coke out-of-home recycling campaign

Coke, on the other hand, uses bits and pieces of its logo to point customers to recycling bins. This is perfectly on-strategy for the brand — Coke has a mission to have 100% recyclable packaging by 2025, and to have a system in place by 2030 that ensures all cans and bottles they produce are returned. And this campaign isn’t just preaching sustainability — it makes a lot of sense for Coke consumers, who need to recycle their empty cans but might not know where the nearest bin is. The campaign is useful to the consumer, clever and eye catching, and reinforces branding. It’s even more refreshing than cracking open a cold Coke on a hot day. Campaigns like these are only possible in tandem with extremely strong branding — Coke and McDonald’s are household names around the globe. A new brand with less brand recognition would not be able to pull it off — but we’d consider this the new “goal” for up and coming brands! When your branding is minimally shown, but is still recognizable — that’s when you know you’ve made it.