In 1967 Ray Kroc, McDonald’s founder and himself a member of the Advertising Hall of Fame, asked Paul Schrage to start a marketing department for his little hamburger company. By the time Schrage retired 30 years later as senior executive vice president and chief marketing officer of McDonald’s Corporation and a member of its board of directors, he had made McDonald’s the most powerful brand in the world.
In the process, Schrage created a distinctive advertising look for McDonald’s that consistently delivered an appealing message of "food, folks and fun" and invariably created a memorable McDonald’s moment that tugged at consumers’ heartstrings. Who doesn’t remember "You deserve a break today," "We do it all for you," "It’s a good time for the great taste of McDonald’s," "Have you had your break today," and of course, "Twoallbeefpattiesspecialsauce lettucecheesepicklesonionsonasesameseedbun?"
Perhaps most importantlySchrage recognized that great advertising was just the beginning of the process. From the start, he reminded his colleagues that advertising could promise anything, but it only had meaning with customers if the experience in the restaurant matched the promise of the advertising. Schrage defined the McDonald’s advertising and marketing magic, and helped push and prod the system to believe, as he did, that they could deliver that magic in McDonald’s restaurants.
Even as he was creating an entirely new brand of "experience advertising," Schrage also made McDonald’s innovations like breakfast, PlayPlaces, drive-thru and Extra Value Meals into QSR industry standards as well. And he created demand for new products among customers around the world, including the Big Mac (the most-popular sandwich in the world), the Quarter Pounder, Egg McMuffin, Chicken McNuggets and more.
Schrage not only designed the Golden Arches logo and selected the red and gold colors recognized around the world, but he also created McDonald’s marketing code, a guidebook to manage brand image globally.
Through the years, he led the advertising industry into the development of segmented marketing programs by targeting key audiences within McDonald’s diverse customer base. For example, in the kids’ market, Ronald McDonald has become a national institution recognized by 96 percent of American children and is now known around the world.
Under Schrage’s guidance, McDonald’s retained national African American and Hispanic advertising and public relations agencies to develop advertising and promotional programs for these key audience groups, as well as creating an international network of agencies to translate the same, consistent McDonald’s message around the world.
Schrage also has been a pioneer in the area of cross-promotion, forging alliances with the Olympic Games, World Cup Soccer, the NFL, the NBA, and NASCAR to increase McDonald’s worldwide visibility and then leverage its investment by promoting the events in every restaurant.
Schrage also has been tireless in his efforts to contribute to the betterment of society, having served as chairman of the board of trustees for Ronald McDonald House Charities, the largest children’s charitable organization in the world. RMHC provides more than 180 "homes-away-from-home" in 14 countries for families of seriously ill children being treated at nearby hospitals, and also makes grants, both large and small, to other children’s programs worldwide.
Schrage’s career serves as a virtual case study in innovation, leadership, integrity and excellence in advertising, and he has elevated the entire profession through his example.