A McPassport is not as crazy as it sounds.

News reached us recently that “US citizens who need help in Austria can now head to their nearest branch of McDonald's, because of an agreement signed by the fast-food giant.” (> bbc.co.uk).


Many lols and scathing comments appeared online:

Not everyone was impressed by the announcement on social media:

  • One Facebook user wondered if the idea was "because apparently we are too incompetent to look up the US embassy online"

  • Another joked: "One McPassport to go please"

  • Another asked: "Is this in lieu of a staffed embassy?"

To which the embassy responded "certainly not", adding that the embassy was fully staffed and the partnership was "only one extra way for Americans to connect to the Embassy when they are in an emergency situation".

Actually the idea makes sense, and in our opinion it’s because of branding, branding, branding.

In any country around the world, even if owned by local franchisees (which loads of customers don’t even think about), McDonalds is seen as an American island outside of the USA - and that, is all about the brand:

  • Familiarity

  • A non threatening environment

  • Friendly faces not bureaucrats

  • Assured English speakers (depending on the country…?)

  • Often open 24 hrs

  • Offering heat, facilities and food

  • To American visitors, it may not feel like they have a political agenda... (although this point is open to a whole other article methinks)

A 24-hour hotline to the embassy has been set up and McDonald’s said “…its branches would continue to be Austrian territory and would offer help to anyone in need, not just Americans.

What can our customers learn from this when exporting?

We constantly bang on to customers about localising their products to their target market - and indeed, it is the primary consideration (hence why we all need translation!), however we also remind our customers that where they come from is important too. Pretending that they’re ‘home-grown’ in the country of sale won’t wash - it is a disastrous technique.

Being proud of the country their brand is from is such a strong sales tactic and given that their research will have shown them that their chosen market love products from Britain, they can rest assured that selling ‘Made in Britain’ will pay off.

Their products or services are a little piece of their home country in their target market, and truly successful export branding reflects both cultures.

How can they achieve this?

  • Add ‘Made in Britain’ text

  • UK flag icons

  • We translate all mandatory information and marketing text to communicate with customers

  • Keep (and translate / explain?) British cultural stuff / idioms / jokes - explaining / educating the market if necessary.

  • Think of the positive things that Britain is famous for and play on them (think education, history, eccentricity, design, pop music, Shakespeare, rain / green lands, pubs, legends, etc).

One step further

To take it one step further, the customer should truly understand how their specific target market views Britain and work with it. This might be playing on the stereotype that all the British do is drink tea, apologise too much and all live in castles or cottages.

As a translator - you can play a vital role in this!