NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- As a father of three small children, I cannot drive anywhere without being asked to pull into a McDonald's (MCD - Get Report). Remarkably, this happens even after we've just eaten dinner at home.
It's gotten to the point where whenever I know that I am approaching the Golden Arches, I have to preemptively say to them, "Don't even ask." But where's the fun in that? Plus, it's hypocritical of me, because when I was their age, I did the exact same thing.
This has been McDonald's brilliance over the decades. I would say that it has been able to capture the imagination of children in a way that only one other company -- Walt Disney (DIS) -- has.
McDonald's following among children also seems as powerful as the cultish following that Apple (AAPL) enjoys with grown-ups.It might sound hyperbolic, but it can be argued that no other brand has been more innovative and had a greater impact on our culture than McDonald's. The company's restaurants have been the saving grace for families that are constantly on the go. It has even become the preferred "junk food" of athletes. If you don't believe me, just ask Michael Jordan, Larry Bird and, more recently, Kobe Bryant, Dwight Howard and LeBron James. All have appeared in McDonald's advertisements, and in the famous "The Showdown" television advertisement, Bird and Jordan have a shooting contest over a Big Mac. But it's not just about junk food. When you pull into a McDonald's today, you likely will find more healthy items on its menu than you may have in your own refrigerator. So it gives me pause to even put it in the "junk food" category.