The Branding Brilliance of Hamburger University

As a younger man, when fat and cholesterol were not conscious concerns, I often partook of the culinary creation known as the McDonald’s hamburger. Now older, wiser, and somewhat rounder, I prefer healthier foods. Despite that, as an entrepreneur, I can still admire the brilliance of the men who created what could arguably be viewed as the most successful franchise in history. Their branding and marketing techniques are still widely used in multiple industries, not just the restaurant business.

Today’s module of Hiram’s Edge is titled “Innovation”, but I’m going to refer to it as the “Hamburger Lesson”. McDonald’s took the hamburger, a popular but very basic food, and turned it into a world renowned symbol of American capitalism. How did they do it? Great marketing got them started. Hamburger University took them to the top.

Hamburger University was founded in 1961 in the basement of a McDonald’s in Elk Grove Village, Illinois, by then CEO Ray Kroc. Their curriculum was to teach the “Three Legged Stool” philosophy of management, which focuses on the relationships between owner/operators, suppliers, and company employees. The University’s first graduating class had fourteen students.

Today, McDonald’s Hamburger University is recognized worldwide as a premier management school. Over 100,000 students have attended from 120 different countries. The original location eventually moved to Oak Brook, Illinois, but there are other McDonald’s Universities located in Tokyo, London, Sydney, Munich, Shanghai, and Barueri, Brasil. Their instructors teach in twenty-two languages.

How is any of this relevant to Freemasonry?

The American Council of Education accepts Hamburger University credits as valid for Business Administration degrees from other accredited Universities. Think about that for a moment. Ray Kroc, fifty-five years ago, taught a class to fourteen students that is now taken by five thousand students a year who are receiving college credit for the course. That fact alone gives McDonald’s a clear advantage over their competitors when it comes to hiring management personnel and trainees. It’s brilliant and it’s Basic Branding 101. You can do it too.

Think about your lodge for a moment. What do you offer that is unique and valuable to the men who are thinking about joining? Ray Kroc knew that without something special he’d be just another hamburger joint. Obviously, that is not the case today. At last count, McDonald’s has sold over 300 Billion hamburgers. To begin today’s lesson, ruminate for a moment on what separates your lodge from all other fraternal choices. How are your “hamburgers” different?

Develop a Unique Brand for Your Lodge

At Saint Paul Lodge in Gardner we advertise two types of “hamburgers” to the general public when we do our marketing. The first, like McDonald’s University, is an educational program – Hiram’s Edge. The skills we teach with Hiram’s Edge are just as valuable in business as they are in the marketing and promotion of your lodge. We happily promote that fact, because it adds value to what we offer to potential prospects.

The second “hamburger” we have to offer is the Colonial Craftsmen. We’ve had a number of men read our marketing materials on the Colonial Craftsmen and inquire because it’s a Colonial re-enactment group. Their initial interest was not necessarily Freemasonry, but the appeal of a Colonial troupe moved them to inquire. In business, this is known as “feeding the top of the funnel.” Not every inquiry will turn into a member, but the fuller the funnel, the higher our overall membership numbers will be.

Identifying and Articulating your Value Proposition

The correct term for what makes you unique is “value proposition”. Two of the primary keys to successfully launching a business are identifying what your value proposition is and knowing how to articulate it. Please watch the video below:

In business, we discuss “pains” and “gains” when creating a value proposition. To understand how this works in relation to Freemasonry you must first view your lodge as a business. You offer a product. How do you describe that product? You’re fulfilling a need for your members. What is that need? Open up a discussion at your next business meeting or LOI. Successful articulation will only come with comprehensive understanding. Get all of your brothers into the conversation and then use the map in the video above to create a value proposition.

Survey Members for New Ideas

The education project presented at last year’s final LOI in the 22nd District was a concept called an “Idea Book”. The Idea Book begins by sending a survey out to the members of your lodge and asking some very specific questions. Here are some examples:

  • What brought you to Freemasonry?
  • How could we improve your Masonic experience?
  • What would you like to see done differently?
  • What new ideas can you offer to the fraternity?

You can create your own list of questions. Use these if you like or come up with something entirely different. The point of innovation is to discover something new. Find ways to improve the Masonic experience and become more appealing to the younger generation. Ask yourself, “How do we do that?”

Next Step: Use Hiram’s Edge to Promote Your Brand

If you’ve been through the first three modules of Hiram’s Edge, you already know what to do next. Once you’ve identified your value proposition, ask your lodge’s best writer to compose some content to articulate the concept. Create a page on your website with that prose. Write some blog posts and schedule them out, utilizing WordPress auto-post features to push your content to social media channels.

Looking for additional exposure, read our article about Facebook Boost. If you have questions or would like to offer suggestions for new course material, use the contact form below to reach out to us:



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