Why is McDonald's launching a 'design collection' in Paris?

For the month of May, high-end Parisian store Colette will be selling a 'design collection' from McDonald's which includes T-shirts, bags, scarves, iPhone covers and more. The products actually look really nice, but as a piece of brand messaging, it's all quite confusing...

The collection is based on the fast food brand's latest French advertising campaign by TBWA Paris, shown below, which features a set of elegant illustrations of McDonald's products, including fries, Big Mac and an ice cream sundae. The new campaign is actually a reworking of last year's Pictograms series of posters, but this time the images of the foodstuff are formed from lots of tiny emoticons, showing thumbs up, hearts or musical notes.



For the Colette collection, McDonald's has simply transferred the images onto bags and T-shirts. Examples of the products are shown below, and the results are pretty charming, even though many will no doubt baulk at the idea of promoting the golden arches on their clothing.

What is more confusing is how this campaign, and particularly its evolution into a design collection, fits with the wider perception of the McDonald's brand, which appears to be in a period of flux. It makes sense that McDonald's would adapt its style (and, famously, its menu) subtly for local markets. Its messaging too varies depending on where you are in the world. In the UK, for example, it's opted recently for a heartwarming and very British-centred approach, epitomised by a series of ads for the brand's UK 40th birthday last year, while for the Super Bowl in the US, it launched its sacharrine and much criticised Pay With Lovin' campaign.



While starkly different in tone, what does unite the UK and US ads is a mainstream approach, whereas over in France, with this work McDonalds is opting instead for an almost minimalist cool.

The decision to launch the Colette collection (which we assume the brand is paying the store to stock for the month), suggests that McDonald's might have registered the appeal of food-related clothes items from the likes of Lazy Oaf or Vans and decided to design their own line. Like its recent launch of an 'artisan' chicken burger in the US (which led a Slate journalist to label the brand "bewildered by modernity"), it could be more evidence of a growing identity crisis in the brand caused by the much talked-about threat from the likes of Chipotle, Shake Shack and Five Guys, who have a more stylish offering. But, to be honest, with so many different types of messaging coming from McDonald's at the moment, it's hard to have any certainty about its intentions.

And, ultimately, is design alone enough to bring coolness to McDonald's? As a champion of great design, we'd like to think so, but in this instance the jury is out.