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Last week, the Washington Post ran a fascinating piece about how McDonald’s has adopted a new, grass-roots marketing strategy to counter all the negative impressions of their greasy food. The ploy involves recruiting mothers, taking them behind the scenes at Mickey D processing plants, and then recording their (hopefully) positive remarks for the Web for all to see and hear.

The clown’s strategy is downright Machiavellian. Writes Post reporter Michael S. Rosenwald:

Jerry Swerling, director of the University of Southern California’s Strategic Public Relations Center, said McDonald’s is attempting to capitalize on a significant shift in who consumers most trust for information.

“When people are asked to define who they trust and who they believe, the answer is people like themselves, not journalists and not academics,” Swerling said. A recent Edelman study showed most Americans think “a person like me” is the most credible source for company information. “Word of mouth is not just a different kind of messenger,” the study said. “It’s a fundamental change in the traditional value system of information.”

The Internet offers a fast word-of-mouth tool, and McDonald’s is featuring the moms with diaries and video on its Web site.

So what do you think? Is this corporate brainwashing of overworked moms or brilliant marketing or both?

Image courtesy of Flickr user The Consumerist.