Why McDonald's got serious backlash after updating its golden arches for coronavirus

McDonald's restaurants, not just in the U.S. but throughout the world, have been closing their doors and going to takeout only as we practice coronavirus-mandated social distancing, but the McDonald's in Brazil decided to express solidarity with its customers through a grand (if misguided) gesture. They made one very significant alteration to their logo, adopting a version where the iconic golden arches were reimagined in a pulled-apart form.

The separated arches, meant as a super-sized reminder that we all need to keep each other safe by keeping our distance, were designed by the advertising agency DPZ&T. Although no physical alterations were made to store signage, the redesigned logo was introduced on the chain's Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook accounts. While the chain claimed to be expressing the sweet thought that we're all merely "separated for a moment so that we can always be together," AdAge reveals that the reactions McDonald's Brazil got indicated that very few customers were willing to accept that sentiment at face value.

Why McDonald's change in logo didn't play out like they'd planned

Within a week of unveiling this new logo, McDonald's Brazil removed it from all of their social media accounts, and it doesn't look like the socially-distancing arches will be adopted by any of the 100+ other countries where McDonald's has a presence. Instead of applauding McDonald's for its support in this time of crisis, angry users of Twitter (as usual, the most vocal of social media platforms) were slamming the chain for its insensitivity.

One tweet (via the New York Post) called out Mickey D's as "award-desperate morons," calling the logo "a disingenuous scam ad to win awards [that] enrages me when the topic is a global pandemic." Another user told McDonald's: "Nobody cares how you've reformatted your 'beloved' arches," and urged the chain to "actually f****** DO something" instead. As to what that something might be, yet another tweet, showing concern for the minimum wage workers who are risking their own health to stay on the job during this health crisis, made the following suggestion to McDonald's management: "How about pay your workers a living wage!"

Needless to say, when it came to the new logo, nobody was lovin' it, and an embarrassed McDonald's issued the following statement: "We apologize for any misunderstanding of the intent to remind our customers and communities on the importance of social distancing during these uncertain times."

McDonald's in the UK are social distancing for real

McDonald's restaurants in the United Kingdom have also changed their signage — there are no alterations to the arches, but all branches, at present, will now be sporting signs marking them as closed for the time being. All of the nation's chains will no longer even offer takeout or delivery at present, a move which several other UK chains have since echoed. 

This action, the chain announced, was prompted by concerns for "the well-being and safety of our employees... as well as... the best interests of our customers." While the BBC reports that this will leave 135,000 out of work, McDonald's will be paying all of its workers their full wages for the hours they would have been scheduled through April 5.

This move seems to have been fairly well accepted by customers for the most part, but it did irk some employees who first learned of this move through the company's Twitter announcement and complained accordingly in the comments.

One McDonald's still bears unique arches

The separated golden arches of Brazil aren't the only time the chain has made an alteration to its logo. There exists one McDonald's location in all the world where those arches are not, and have never been, golden — but it's for a reason that has nothing to do with a global pandemic or any other catastrophic reason. No, these arches — which are a lovely shade of turquoise — are located in Sedona, Arizona, and the color was chosen so that the signage would better blend in with local architecture.

Today, some 20 years later, the Turquoise Arches have become an Instagram pilgrimage site (hashtag #sedonamcdonalds) where worshipers of social media congregate to commemorate their love of unique selfie spots. Even though these days of social distancing restrict us to solo selfie-ing, the turquoise arches still beam out brightly. Perhaps we can see them as a beacon of hope and a harbinger of better days to come when McDonald's — and every other business — will once again open its doors and we can get close enough to share our fries with a friend.