(ADAGE) — Most marketers would love to be McDonald’s.

It’s the world’s largest fast feeder by sales. Global same-store sales rose 5.6% last year over 2010 — its eighth consecutive year of positive same-store sales. It’s rated the world’s No. 6 brand by Interbrand, with a value of $35.6 billion.

It’s the 26th-largest advertiser in the country, with a budget of nearly $888 million for U.S. measured media, according to Kantar Media. Indeed, the GoldenArches are a global beacon of success, and the company’s 33,000-plus locations in 119 countries serve 68 million people a day.

But something strange is happening on McDonald’s soaring arches: Its brand perception isn’t keeping pace with sales. According to people close to the company, its internal tracking system finds that McDonald’s consistently ranks near the bottom in quality perception when compared with rivals.

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