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Ronald McDonald gets new look, own hashtag

Ronald McDonald is getting a makeover and will play a bigger role in the hamburger chain’s social media efforts.

“Ronald brings to life the fun of our brand by connecting with customers around the world, whether he’s promoting literacy or spreading cheer at a Ronald McDonald House,” McDonald’s senior vice president Dean Barrett said. “Customers today want to engage with brands in different ways, and Ronald will continue to evolve to be modern and relevant.”

Ronald McDonald’s new wardrobe includes yellow cargo pants and a vest. For special occasions, he has a red blazer with the Golden Arches on the front pocket and his signature on the back, and a special bowtie. Ronald will use the #RonaldMcDonald hashtag.

Ronald’s new clothes were designed by theatrical designer Ann Hould-Ward, who won a Tony Award for “Beauty and the Beast” and received nominations for “Into the Woods” and “Sunday in the Park with George.”

Ronald’s promotion comes as McDonald’s looks to reset its business. The Oak Brook-based company hopes to boost weak sales by addressing slowness and inaccuracies in orders and emphasizing its most popular items in marketing, including the Big Mac and french fries.

Ronald McDonald, first played by longtime TV weatherman Willard Scott, made his debut in 1963 and has played a major role in making McDonald’s the dominant player among kids in the fast-food industry. The company even named him its “chief happiness officer” in 2003.

A group called Corporate Accountability International in recent years has pressed McDonald’s to retire the clown and stop marketing its food to children. McDonald’s has defended its mascot as “a force of good.”

On Wednesday, the company said Ronald “represents the magic and happiness” of McDonald’s.

After staying relatively quiet in recent years, the clown did make an appearance of sorts online recently after Taco Bell ran TV ads featuring real-life Ronald McDonalds professing their love for its breakfast. McDonald’s subsequently tweeted a photo of the clown kneeling down to pet a Chihuahua. The image was a reference to Taco Bell’s retired mascot and received around 3,000 retweets.

Contributing: The Associated Press