Ronald McDonald is going chic.
Or, at least he's certainly trying to. The McDonald's icon famous for his wild red hair, yellow jumpsuit and floppy shoes, has gotten a makeover from a theatrical stylist – really – who has updated just about everything but the shoes.
The new Ronald sports a red blazer, a red bow tie, red-and-white striped rugby shirt, yellow vest and, yes, yellow cargo pants.
His hair is more coiffed. His vibe is less creepy. And – how shall we politely say this? – he looks slightly less clown-like.
"As a strategy, it feels a little desperate," says Kate Newlin, a brand consultant. She says it's as if the new Ronald is shouting: "Please remember you once loved me."
Love is sorely needed. McDonald's on Tuesday reported a 5% drop in first-quarter net income and 1.7% drop in U.S. same-store sales. Shares closed flat on Wednesday at 99.13.
Not to mention, McDonald's and Ronald McDonald have been mercilessly ridiculed in ads in recent weeks by Taco Bell, which just entered the breakfast market.
But the change to Ronald is unrelated to Taco Bell's parody and has been two years in the making, says Becca Hary, a McDonald's spokeswoman. His new duds were designed by Ann Hould-Ward, who won a Tony award for her costume design of the Disney play Beauty and the Beast.
"I've worked with some really big names over the years," Hould-Ward said in a statement. "Suiting up a living legend was a real thrill."
Ronald McDonald first showed up in 1963 in a local TV ad, and within two year made his first national TV spot. In 1966, he became the chain's national spokesman. Ronald's last redesign was in 2005, but it was far less drastic than this.
McDonald's now seems to be evolving Ronald McDonald beyond his most recent role as a pure brand ambassador mostly focused on Ronald McDonald House Charities.
For the first time, he will have an "active" role on McDonald's social media channels worldwide, said Dean Barrett, senior vice president and global relationship officer, in a statement. "Customers today want to engage with brand in different ways and Ronald will continue to evolve to be modern and relevant."
Which brings us back to Taco Bell. Its recent breakfast menu ad featured 25 real guys – all named Ronald McDonald – who all said they preferred Taco Bell's breakfast to McDonald's.
A Taco Bell spokesman did not immediately respond to an inquiry about the new Ronald McDonald.
So, where does the newly chic Ronald go for his breakfast?
You can bet he doesn't Live Mas – but is munching his McMuffin comfortably under the Golden Arches.
Even in his blazer.