McDonald’s caters for the guilt-ridden

McDonald’s has started off the new year in the US with new takeaway bags that seem to offer customers a choice: Blare to the world that you’re lovin’ it, or hide your McIndulgence altogether.

The move is part of a new marketing campaign that also includes commercials and employee uniforms as McDonald’s tries to recover from stubbornly sagging sales and win back younger customers.

The takeout bags on one side feature the fast-food giant’s “I’m lovin’ it” slogan in large, red letters, with small golden arches in the bottom corner following the catchphrase.

People who feel embarrassed about lovin’ the fast-food chain’s food, however, can opt to show off the other side – a generic-looking burger graphic amid a bunch of white space, with no McDonald’s logos – and keep their guilty pleasure a secret.

The plain-and-simple approach to packaging is taking hold in the industry, spurred by the fast-growing higher-end burger chains that are likely stealing business from McDonald’s.

For instance, Shake Shack and Five Guys have simple brown bags with little or no writing. Smashburger has a white bag with large block lettering. Wendy’s changed its packaging about two years ago to be simpler, and it’s also now white with a red logo of mascot Wendy.

A McDonald’s spokeswoman says the packaging is designed with “a fresh, modern and simple look in mind, to highlight the playful icons that reflect some of our iconic menu items.”

The bags also have messages on the narrow side, such as “The reason people smile when you say cheese” and “When life hands you onions, make a quarter pounder.”