Letter to the Editor: McDonald's and Pepsi's Different Response to Pressure

Letter to the Editor: McDonald's and Pepsi's Different Response to Pressure

February 02, 2012
Originally published in The Wall Street Journal

Holman Jenkins's "What Pepsi Can Learn From McDonald's" (Business World, Jan. 28) hits on a failure of corporate management that is far more widespread than the fast-food and beverage industries. CEOs everywhere have been led by both their outside critics and in-house management gurus to heed the calls for "organic" and "sustainable" products made by appropriately "diverse" work forces in a politically correct fashion. They have fallen for this line even though their products have made the world a better place. And when they heed their critics, they end up attracting even more criticism because the world still doesn't meet some outsider's utopian standards.

The error of these CEOs lies in thinking that just because the customer is always right, so is the critic. That is a lethal mistake that McDonald's has thankfully avoided. Rather than cave in, it continues to satisfy consumers while just as importantly defending consumers' right to choose. As a result, it advances both its reputation in the consumer world and its legitimacy in the political world. This dual mission is vital because a company's profits depend both on its private-sector sales as well as its fending off crippling political regulations. McDonald's arches symbolize not only the billions of burgers it has sold, but the fact that it did so with pride rather than apology.