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Ronald McDonald gets a makeover, takes on Twitter

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(Read caption) This undated image provided by McDonald's on Wednesday, April 23, 2014 shows the character Ronald McDonald with updated clothing. On Wednesday, the company said the mascot will take an active role on social media for the first time. The move marks a turnaround from recent years, when he faded to the background as McDonald’s came under criticism for using him to market to children. But the world’s biggest hamburger chain seems ready to give its clown a higher-profile role as it works to boost weak sales.

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At McDonald’s Corp.’s 2011 annual shareholders meeting, the representative of an organization critical of the company’s marketing called for the retirement of longtime mascot Ronald McDonald. Then-CEO Jim Skinner stared down the speaker and said firmly, “Ronald McDonald’s is an ambassador for good. Ronald McDonald isn’t going anywhere.”

Nowhere but digital. Ronald McDonald has received not only a reaffirmation but also a wardrobe makeover and a new marketing role with the company. The clown who first represented the company in 1963 will be active in social media for the first time. Using the #RonaldMcDonald hashtag, he will be on “a global mission to rally the public through inspiring events,” the company said in a statement.

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Ronald’s smiling face will be featured in in-store graphics, furniture and other design elements at McDonald’s restaurants around the world. TV advertising with the “new” Ronald breaks later this year.

Befitting a middle-aged icon, Ronald gets restyled with a new red blazer with the Golden Arches logo on the front pocket and Ronald’s stylized signature on the back. Oh yes, there’s a bow tie as well. Another ensemble includes yellow cargo pants and a vest with a red-and-white-striped rugby shirt. McDonald’s didn’t mess with the oversize shoes. Broadway designer Ann Hould-Ward, whose costumes for “Beauty and the Beast” won her a Tony Award, created the new look.

“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,” Dean Barrett, SVP-Global Relationship Officer, said in the release. “Customers today want to engage with brands in different ways and Ronald will continue to evolve to be modern and relevant.”