Has the McDonald's brand left Ronald McDonald behind?

As McDonald's modernizes it restaurants to fit in a post-Starbucks world, the fate of its 48-year-old, red-haired mascot is being questioned...at least in the press and among health-care advocacy groups.

Anti-obesity groups suggest that Ronald encourages unhealthy eating habits for kids. But the company disagrees. The Wall Street Journal reports that Chief Executive Officer Jim Skinner staunchly defended the clown at the company's annual meeting on Thursday, saying, "Ronald McDonald is going nowhere."

Children's eating habits aside, the question as to whether Ronald McDonald adequately, and accurately represents today's burger brand is the real question.

McDonald's has been spending tons of money remodeling restaurants around the globe with sleek new designs featuring upholstered furniture, flat-screen television and wi-fi--encouraging a Starbucks-esque destination setting. And with McCafe, frappes and smoothies, the company is moving decidedly with the times.

The big question is whether the Hamburgler, Grimace, Ronald and the French Fry Gobblins would be caught dead sipping a McCafé Frozen Strawberry Lemonade and tweeting from their iPad.

Me thinks the brand has McMovedOn.

From The Wall Street Journal: "Mascots were heavily used in the mid part of the last century, but not so much anymore unless you're an insurance company and you have a duck or a gecko or a caveman," says Cheryl Swanson, managing partner of Toniq, a brand strategy firm. "I'm not so sure Ronald is keeping up with where the brand is going. I wouldn't be so dogmatic if I were McDonald's. I'd do a deep dive into whether he's still meaningful or a throwback to the last century."

Chances are, the execs at McDonald's will hang on to Ronald for a little while longer...afterall, his 50th birthday is coming up.

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