By Charlie De Mar

CHICAGO (CBS) —  Along with Santa Claus and Mickey Mouse, he’s one of the most recognizable faces to children worldwide.

But the recent rash of creepy clown sightings is hurting Ronald McDonald’s marketability.

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CBS 2’s Charlie De Mar explains how McDonald’s has changed its branding strategy and made Ronald a clown in hiding.

He’s a friendly constant.

Ronald McDonald is the cheerful upbeat icon for the fast food giant.

“We grew up with Ronald McDonald. He is an icon,” Laura Rojas said.

“The big shoes, the funny nose,” Peggy Balboa adds.

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But creepy clown sightings are proving to be a threat Ronald’s image. The company decided to sideline their cheerful mascot, saying in a statement:

“McDonald’s and franchisees in the local markets are mindful of the current climate around clown sightings in communities and as such are being thoughtful in respect to Ronald McDonald’s participation in community events for the time being.”

“It’s an opportunity lost. Is it going to hurt them, no,” says John Greening, associate professor at Northwestern University and former advertising executive who handled McDonalds marketing.

“When something trustworthy turns on you, you begin to doubt everything, and I think it’s an opportunity for Ronald to stand up and say he’s one to be counted,” Greening says.

“That’s messed up. It’s not right for McDonald’s to take away Ronald McDonald. He didn’t do anything,” one customer said.

“He should still be able to run around like a clown like he wants to,” another said.

“Clowns are not creepy they are funny and they are making a big deal out of nothing,” Balboa said.

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Charlie De Mar