The Arches and Beyond

What social media tells us about consumer response to McDonald’s signature look

Spotted from afar while driving on a highway or walking the city streets, or printed on clothing, the golden arches can only mean one thing: McDonald’s. McDonald’s golden arches are universally recognized, yet with the small-town familiarity of a hometown diner.

Over the course of McDonald’s history, the iconic symbol has been tweaked—originally designed with two arches on either side of the building, the symbol did not form an “M.” However, since adopting the double golden arches, the design changes are much smaller—adjustments to height, thickness, and shading.
We looked at the conversation on social media to assess the power of imagery—what people think about when someone says “golden arches,” consumer sentiment about golden arches, and the most common topics in the discussion.

The other golden arches

When people say “golden arches” or “double arches,”  there are a few things it can mean: McDonald’s, architecture, rock formations, and geology.


“Golden arches” has become synonymous with McDonald’s and is used as a friendly nickname.


A design element, many buildings feature arches. Arches can be found in many different places. A fairly common term, people take pictures of arches in everyday structures like tunnels and share them on social media.

Rock formations

In large national parks, unique rock formations can be arch-shaped. In Utah, Arches National Park draws plenty of Instagrammers.


Similar to rock formations, people share photos of landscapes featuring arches.

Regional Differences

In certain locations, McDonald’s arches are a different color. In Sedona, Arizona, the arches are turquoise so that it stands out from the desert background.


In text, golden arches overwhelmingly refers to McDonald’s, which dominates 87 percent of the golden arches discussion. At 9 percent share of voice, golden arches also refer to churches.

When people discuss the golden arches, the conversation is generally positive. Joy is the most prominent emotion, with 50 percent share of voice. Joy rose significantly from 2016 to 2017, rising from 43 percent share of voice to 66 percent share of voice, when a comical Tumblr post was widely shared.


There are two main components of McDonald’s design: the red and yellow colors and the golden arches. Golden arches has a larger share of voice than color, with 58 percent share of voice.


The double golden arches are McDonald’s trademark. By looking at social media analysis, we are able to learn that there is more than meets the eye.

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