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What McDonalds Taught me about Blogging – Grow Up With Your Readers

McdonaldsLast week I wrote a post talking about simple posts and how they can be a powerful thing to include in your blog. I followed that post up with one looking at the balancing act that longer term bloggers have when it comes to working out where to pitch their blog (trying to get the balance right between ‘beginner’ and more advanced posts). Today I’d like to continue the train of thought by taking a look at new blogs.

With new blogs it can be a little easier to cater for a particular level of reader because you’re starting afresh with no established expectations from anyone. At least in the early months the balancing act described in my previous post might not be needed.

But that doesn’t mean starting a new blog is always easy.

One tactic that I’ve found helpful when starting a new blog is to ‘grow up with my readers‘.

I’ve written about this previously somewhere (I can’t find it though) but I take this inspiration from the McDonalds fast food chain (bear with me – tangent ahead).

McDonalds Marketing Over the Years

If you do a little analysis of McDondonalds media campaigns over the last 30 years you’ll notice that it went through some significant waves in terms of their focus (at least they did in Australia).

When I was a kid McDonalds ads were very much focussed at children.

Ronald McDonald featured heavily as did the hamburglar and a variety of other characters. The pitch was fairly and squarely aimed at me and my peers.

Over the years the ads changed. When I was a teenager McDonalds ads ‘grew up’ a little. They began to feature ‘cool’ young adults – laughing, having fun and… being… well just cool.

When I became a young adult the ads (and the decor) at McDoncalds continued to grow up. The ads featured more adults (although there were some still on kids), McCafes were introduced and the trend towards a healthier and more ‘grown up’ menu began.

These days I’ve noticed the ads featuring more and more families. Dads with kids, mums with kids – food for the whole family….

McDonalds has grown up as I have. They’ve pitched themselves at me and my peers all along the road from child, to teen, to young adult to parent – I guess in a few years we’ll see the playgrounds that they have here replaced with McOxygen tents for senior citizens.

So what’s McDonalds marketing strategy got to do with starting a new blog?

In short – I think a great way to start a new blog is to pitch it at a lower level and to then ‘grow up with your readers’.

Start with the basics (after all that’s where many people are at) and then add to the level that you pitch things at over time with more intermediate posts and then advanced ones.

This is what I’ve been attempting to do with Digital Photography School over the last 10 months. The early days focussed in on how to hold a camera and basic rules of composition like the rule of thirds – and over time I’ve gradually attempted to get a little more advanced and have tried to tempt readers out of the auto modes on their cameras with posts on exposure. Adding a forum also grew the blog up a little and attracted a higher level of interaction and learning.

I’m not saying you can’t start a blog at a more advanced level – many have done this successfully – but as I look around most niches I see a lot of blogs that have already gone to the advanced level that might have forgotten about the beginner user – for me the logical response to this is to tap into this forgotten novice market and move on from there.

About Darren Rowse

Darren Rowse is the founder and editor of ProBlogger Blog Tips and Digital Photography School. Learn more about him here and connect with him on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn.

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Comments

  1. Louis says:

    hhmm…

    I have done that but during the first few months, i didnt have much traffic and a lot of newbies material.
    Now, I m already in the advanced stuffs in the audience starts coming little by little but they dont have the level of experise to understand my stuffs.
    So I have to refers constantly to old posts.

    I’m considering re-organizing my sidebar for the newbies with stuffs like:
    First time on this blog
    FAQ
    etc….

    I think it didnt apply to you as you started directly with an audience, I got started with 4 readers a day.

  2. George C. says:

    Hi Darren. Nice post! I have a brand new blog so I’m starting to promote it, as you say its not always easy to get readers, But with these advices I think I’m going to do better. Thanks a lot! Good work!

  3. Ashish Mohta says:

    Great idea.I do it rather with my post.Teaching them from simple terms to higher terms.Makes it easy fro them to understand and increase their potential of understanding.

    Adding some extra things can be helpful.They get to know more things slowly and see some new features both attract them.I did added two pages and shared with them.

    One other way is to ask them what they want know read about , ask them to request a topic.You would get some feedback for sure and new ideas for the post too.And it will tell you the level of readers you have.

  4. How long should you wait before “growing up” the content? How do you know when your readers are ready for more advanced industry topics?

  5. carl says:

    nice post. I love the idea. well it’s true. like mcdonalds they grow up with their costumers that’s why we love them:)

    like sir darren did, we grow up with him:) that’s why we love him hehehe

  6. Doug Karr says:

    But readership isn’t linear, though, it’s dimensional. If I start reading your blog today and Brandon has been reading for a year, don’t you need to serve both readers? I’m not sure ‘growing up’ is a good strategy. Diversifying may be a better approach.

  7. TheAnand says:

    I am not very sure about this idea. . .like i have been blogging for almost 3-4 months now on a consistant basis. but i have failed miserably in getting comments on my posts. . .what feedback do I have? Heck, I dont even know if anyone is reading, though my stats hover pretty much around the same level

  8. Edward says:

    It’s better to focus on targeted visitors rather than ‘growing up’ your readers , or perhaps can serves both beginners and experts at once

  9. Bes Zain says:

    Good point! We have to adopt with the changing times. This goes along with what I wrote on my site before, that we have to change our approach to blogging in order to “grow”, as you put it. Good observation, btw: today, McDonald’s is focusing more on high school and university kids along with showing single people in their 20′s and 30′s a lot in their ads.

    Doug, you are absolutely right. We need to serve both bloggers. Just because the majority or someone new wants something different does not mean the minority or people who have stayed around for a while cannot get what they want. It is a hard thing to please both, but it is possible!

    Off-topic: This post made me hungry, and a thought: many people considered the earlier ads with the clown creepy. :p

  10. Nneka says:

    Huge caveat, McDonald’s tailor’s its ads based on the channel. For example, on the cartoon network, little kids and and cartoon characters are heavy in their commercials, while during the Real World on MTV the ad still has young adults and the cool kids at the register, then during prime time Desperate Housewives, they feature the couple with the huband taking the order.

    Different commercials for different market segments.

    It’s not so much that their commercials changed, as you changed what you were watching. BUT, they are there every step of the way.

    The question is, with one blog, how can you tailor your content to your readers without exposing other segments to content not “appropriate” for them.

    Maybe subdomains, categories, folders????

  11. JennDZ says:

    Wow, this is a really good idea. I am thinking of starting blogs on other topics beyond the travel one, so I am going to apply these principles for sure!
    Thanks!

  12. Darren Rowse says:

    Nneka – you’re right – these days they do target their ads more – but when I was growing up things were not that targeted (at least here in Australia). I’ve seen studies that analyse how McD’s targeted my generation in this way in Aus and grew up with us.

    Others – I’m not saying this will work in every case – but that it has in my own and I suspect will work well in other niches.

    Perhaps without the McD’s illustration I could have written that one strategy that some blogs find helpful is to:

    - target ‘beginners’ when you start your blog
    - broaden your perspective as your blog develops to include more intermediate and then advanced articles.

    Perhaps this is also more applicable for ‘how to’ or ‘tips’ type blogs.

    Thanks for the feedback all.

  13. Dave Starr says:

    Great thoughts in this one, Darren. I’ve seen several conversations going on lately on this broad area. ProBlogger.net, for example, has a good organizational menu structure in the heading to help beginners. But I’m sure there are better ways.

    this has inspired me to get my blog re-design back in motion and get off of just a stock all the posts in a loop WordPress default and organize my posts better to aid both new comers and the more technically sophisticated.

    RE: the McDonald’s example … their marketing has followed essentially the same track in the US. Actually, right now they seem to be a bit stalled and floundering … Maybe the McOxygen tents are a good idea LoL. But their “grow up” formula in general is a fantastically powerful one and worthy of every blogger’s thought. (Ever notice how Disney re-release “Snow White” and other classics every 20 years or so?)

    RE: Tangents. I enjoy your tangents and like the fact that you always give warning before you diverge. But remember one thing … in common English usage we seem to have made “tangent” only a negative word. But in railroad and highway engineering where it is still a very precise and common word it has one simple and positive meaning … a straight line connecting two curves. (as you should know since you live near one end of the longest tangent railroad track in the world *smile*)

  14. Only two words: HUNGRY JACKS :P

  15. Charles says:

    Had you ever considered that we may be suffering from skitoma? That is: we only see what we “want” to see and “blind” to everything else. Haven’t McDonalds really been addressing us all, all along no matter our age? They seem to appeal to us all from 2 to 102.

    Their advertising has not “hit” me so much since their .19 cent hamberger and .10 cent fries back in the 50′s.

  16. Evelyn says:

    I’m afraid I have to admit to being at the Hamburgler level but I have to say that content is so important to keep people reading. We all know that. What’s my point? My point is the delivery of that content. The only purpose of this comment to to compliment you on your delivery! There are posts that I just shrug and and can’t yet relate to, but I can sure relate to this one! You wrote, “I guess in a few years we’ll see the playgrounds that they have here replaced with McOxygen tents for senior citizens.” I had to laugh. I don’t know how much longer I will be laughing at that statement, but, nothing would surprise me! Content is important but delivery makes all the difference!

  17. Evelyn says:

    I’m afraid I have to admit to being at the Hamburgler level but I have to say that content is so important to keep people reading. We all know that. What’s my point? My point is the delivery of that content. The only purpose of this comment to to compliment you on your delivery! There are posts that I just shrug off and can’t yet relate to, but I can sure relate to this one! You wrote, “I guess in a few years we’ll see the playgrounds that they have here replaced with McOxygen tents for senior citizens.” I had to laugh. I don’t know how much longer I will be laughing at that statement, but, nothing would surprise me! Content is important but delivery makes all the difference!

  18. Great post. It is the first time I visit your blog and this post is very good. It took me a while to get my blog off the ground but reading more and more blogs like yours helped me get it off the ground a bit. Still I am a long way from getting there but now at least I am getting a few hits everyday.

    Keep up the good stuff.

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