Fast Food Nation | Study Guide

Eric Schlosser

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Fast Food Nation | Part 1, Chapter 2 : The American Way (Your Trusted Friends) | Summary


Key Takeaways

  • This chapter analyzes the role of marketing, advertising, and corporate sponsorship in fast food.
  • The chapter also develops the connection between the Disney and McDonald's empires.
  • The Ray A. Kroc museum and McDonald's managerial training center (Hamburger University) illustrate the "Disneyesque" culture of the chain and its reverence for founder Kroc.
  • Walt Disney and Ray Kroc knew each other from serving in the same ambulance corps during World War I. Born a year apart, both were high-school dropouts from Illinois who valued order and control and embraced new technology. Politically conservative and charismatic, they were "master salesmen" who perfected the art of selling to children.
  • Disney applied factory assembly line techniques to his animation studios and took a strong anti-union stance.
  • Both Kroc and Disney were fiercely competitive, comparing the fast food business to "survival of the fittest."
  • The Disney corporation made military training videos and films to assure 1940s' viewers that nuclear power was safe. The Disney futuristic theme park Tomorrowland "celebrated technology without moral qualms." Former Nazi party officials helped create Tomorrowland exhibits and films.
  • Disney's marketing strategy of "synergy," which Kroc later adopted, promoted the brand through characters, mascots, and televised entertainment. The goal was to create an elaborate fantasyland to appeal to children, who would bring their parents.
  • Since the 1980s, marketing to children has become a robust business. Children are encouraged to nag their parents and subtly provided with ways to do it and reasons for wanting a particular product. Corporations hope to create lifelong "brand loyalty."
  • Children's clubs appeal to a child's desire for "status and belonging." McDonald's has used clubs to collect personal information from children online.
  • The Federal Trade Commission has tried unsuccessfully to ban advertising directed at young children, who may believe advertising claims are true.
  • Fast food companies have formed marketing alliances with toy companies, sports leagues, and film studios to advance their brands.
  • Faced with declining sales, McDonald's executives aimed to make customers feel known and cared for, as if the brand were a "trusted friend."
  • Corporations have frequently sponsored schools in exchange for advertising in the school building. Though these partnerships give money to school districts, they've also increased unhealthy soda consumption and provided incomplete, biased educational material.
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