McWhat?

I noticed a long time ago that the Germans like to poke fun at the Scots for being thrifty and tight with money. It seems to be acceptable here, more so than mocking the Swabians. But when it comes to the use of “Mc” in some brand names here, it took a lot longer for me to feel what the Germans call the “Aha-Effekt” – that click, click, click, the penny dropping. In semantic terms, Mc here means ‘discount’.

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The brand I bump into most with Mc in the name is McPaper. Basically it’s a chain of shops that is trying to position itself as the economy brand among stationery suppliers. Indeed the prices are fair. My immediate thought was that the shops must have a Scottish heritage. I was wrong. No kilt-cladded redheaded shop assistants.

Simple logo, old version

Simple logo, old version

The other brand I’m coming across more and more on my travels is McFit. It now seems to have “fitness studios” (gyms to any Brit) all over the place.

It has rolled out its concept and judging by the original logo, which I assume goes back to 1997 when it was founded, it was simply your common-or-garden room filled with torture equipment to pump iron and try to shed the pounds, without shedding too many euros. I’ll admit I’ve never been into the gyms. Before they updated their branding I always assumed they’d be cheap and cheerful, some sort of discount location for students and pensioners, and definitely not a smooth and sophisticated upmarket place. I can only guess that this is because of the brand name, which with the Mc in it signalled discount fitness. Only without the Highland Games.

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Now the brand is moving forward and developing well. And although the tagline hasn’t changed – Simply look good – the logo has. So maybe they’re trying to move away from the discount gym image. Though I’ll admit I’m a bit confused by the logo. It looks nothing like anything to do with gyms and fitness. More like an armed forces memorial day ribbon (in the US, and now in the UK, relatives and friends of people serving in the military abroad hang up yellow ribbons till they return home, as in the song ‘Tie a Yellow Ribbon’).

On the sign I saw the McFit logo on recently, while driving through a busy city centre in July, I thought it looked like a banana. But no, I looked again the next day and realised it’s supposed to be dynamic, sophisticated and a bit like a knot saying ‘remember me’. The website’s ok, using all the right sex-sells male and female signals to pull in the target audience, without any indication of cheapness.

So maybe Mc initially signaled Scottish low prices, but seems to be extendable to other brand values. I wonder if McPaper could do this, too. And I wonder what else we could use the Mc prefix on. Maybe we can invent some other discount brands – McFly to take on Germanwings or Ryan Air; McBier to battle it out with Oettinger; McDrive to sell discount cars.

Hang on. McDrive? The name McDonalds uses for Drive Thru here. Er, McDonalds. McDonalds. Click. Click. OMG.

Alex Woodruff

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