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A Fresher Approach: Burger King Says Goodbye to the King

We all love a brand that knows how to enhance its public image with a healthy dose of humor. A witty approach to advertising and a sense of self-awareness can be invaluable in delivering a message to consumers. Burger King, however, doesn’t seem to think so – not anymore.

The fast food brand recognized as having one of the creepiest mascots imaginable – the “King” – announced recently that it will be removing said mascot from its repertoire of brand imagery. The company’s new focus? The food.

Here’s a quick reminder of what we’ll be missing from here on out:

 

It’s strange that BK has chosen to nix the King. In a surreal way, the mascot made perfect sense: it was funny, it was memorable, and it had the whole ‘kingliness’ thing going for it. When it first appeared in commercials, it positioned Burger King as one of the most noteworthy brands to rely on comedic advertisements.

Why would BK want to pull away from what would seem to be – for all intents and purposes – an effective approach to advertising? The short answer (according to one article) is to compete:

“Burger King executives have said during analyst conference calls this year that the burger chain will try to broaden its demographic appeal by showcasing products that will spark interest in users such as mothers and families – away from the typical younger male consumers.”

Lo and behold, BK’s newest ad seems geared toward a much broader audience:

 

The ad is slick, stylish, and even a bit appetizing. There’s just one problem: it’s not all that funny. It’s a fantastic spot, but there’s a noticeable lack of requisite BK creepiness here – something that consumers have simply come to expect from the fast food behemoth.

Obviously, Burger King is no longer aiming for the funny bone. Intead, they’re attempting to convey the superiority of their food. Their new commercial may be a showpiece for the California Whopper, but it immediately calls to mind just about every burger that the brand offers. In fact, we can reasonably expect to see future ads from the company take a similar stylistic approach.

Commercials like this aren’t going to make younger viewers chuckle as before, but if BK is trying to market to “mothers and families,” then this is arguably a better way to go about it. If they’re trying to convey the freshness of their ingredients, then this is certainly a huge step in the right direction, seeing as how the visuals in the new ad definitely reinforce the attractiveness of the ingredients.

USA Today points to another interesting fact about the new marketing approach:

“Industry experts say the move may be Burger King’s best bet of giving Ronald McDonald any hint of competition. In a world where Cheesecake Factory now has a low-cal menu and even Sizzler touts the freshness of its grub, Burger King is latching onto the all-critical fresh-and-healthy-food factor.”

It makes sense. BK has never been synonymous with healthfulness, and a shift in that direction isn’t necessarily a bad idea for the brand. The food service industry in general – under constant scrutiny from health organizations and advocacy groups – is making the move toward offering healthier alternatives to traditional menu items. Burger King was going to have to join the health movement sooner or later. Of course, there’s always the possibility that their sudden shift may prove too little, too late. Consumers may not be willing to abruptly change their minds about formerly comedic brand so soon.

In any case, Burger King has made its bed, and now it has to lie in it – no matter what the effect may be on its brand image.

In truth, perhaps the safest bet would’ve been to stick to the original approach:


What say you, blog enthusiasts? Will BK be the same without the “King”? Respond below.

Image source: tedmurphy



Joseph Giorgi

Joseph is the head of the Media Team at Quality Logo Products. He's a video specialist, blogger, perfectionist, and all-around likeable guy. When he's not busy focusing on the nitty-gritty details of his written and visual work, he's normally listening to bad 80s music and scouring the internet for useless information on useless subjects. You can also connect with Joe on Google+.

Comments

  1. Mandy Kilinskis

    Nixing the King was the best thing BK has ever done — even better than the cheesy tots (which are so deliciously good). The King was terrifying. I might actually start going to Burger King more because they got rid of him.

    • Joseph Giorgi

      It still surprises me how much people dislike The King. I thought he was pretty funny (albeit in an admittedly terrifying way), but then again, my sense of humor is warped anyway. :D

  2. JPorretto

    As much as I love a good comedic commercial, is it really going to factor in to my food buying purchase? Highly doubt it. There’s really only 2 factors for me: The actual food, and the location. So touting the quality of the food never seems like a bad advertising choice. It’s not like we don’t know who Burger King is. We just need reasons to go there.

    • Joseph Giorgi

      I’d have to agree with you on that one, JPorretto. At the end of the day, the quality of the food is what factors most into my restaurant loyalty. That’s pretty much why I’ve always chosen BK over McD’s (and its other competitors). BK just TASTES better — they don’t really need a flashy new ad campaign to prove it.

      • Amanda

        I agree with you guys–it’s the food that matters. The commercials don’t do a lot for us–unless there’s a new menu item to try out. We always choose McD’s over BK because it’s cheaper, faster, and better quality. Our local BK (before they went out of business) was known to spit in food, make you pull ahead and wait for your food when there was no one behind you, and throw your food in the bag while forgetting straws, sauces, etc. So Frustrating! We gave up on that store a while back. But I agree–their burgers are great–I love the flame broiled taste. We might try those CA burgers at a different store sometime–but McD’s still has our loyalty for fresher food and better service.

  3. That Guy At Work

    At fifteen seconds into the new BK add I thought I was in the middle of a colonoscopy! *vomit*

    I’ve never found the the King creepy, but then again I’ve never woken up in bed next to him…

    • Joseph Giorgi

      Thanks, That Guy At Work. Now I won’t be able to eat at BK without visualizing a colonoscopy.

  4. Jill Tooley

    ::SHUDDER::

    Want to know my reaction the first time I ever saw a BK commercial starring the King? It went something like: “AHHHHH!!! KILL IT WITH FIRE, KILL IT WITH FIRE!!!”

    There’s something about that wide grin that makes me feel uneasy. Like he’s trying too hard to gain my trust because he’s plotting to murder me when I’m at my most vulnerable…so needless to say, I’m overjoyed that he’s gone now. The new commercials may not be funny, but I think they’ll work out for Burger King a lot better if they actually want to be taken more seriously. Appealing to younger guys is just fine, but it’s time to break that stereotype if they want to compete against other fast food chains! I agree with you that this is a good step in the right direction for them.

    P.S. LOVE the classic commercial. :)

    • Joseph Giorgi

      If BK was serious about appealing to a broader market, they’d opt to include more folksy jingles in their ads — accompanied by visuals of horseback riding and scenic landscapes. Because THAT’S what comes to mind when I think of “Whoppers.”

  5. Amanda

    Nice blog post Joe. I also didn’t find the King overly creepy, just a little bit. I also didn’t find those commercials super funny either. But the commercials usually only bring us into the restaurant if they feature a new food that looks good–like this new California Whopper Jr. That thing looks good–I love guacamole on stuff! But, I don’t know if this commercial will pull us in or not because our local BK went out of business–so I doubt we’ll end up getting them. I visited the BK website, and it doesn’t seem that they’re making changes to their menu–it all looked pretty much the same to me. So I’m wondering if they’re actually going healthier or not. Their commercial makes it seem that way though–showing them slicing up veggies–a good move on their part either way.

    • Joseph Giorgi

      You’re right, the new ad is definitely a bit misleading as far as the “healthfulness” of their menu goes. I doubt that they’re going to make any real changes to the ingredients they already use. Still, I can’t really fault them for that. They’re just trying to change their image, not revamp their policies.

      To be honest, I’ll kind of miss The King. He may have been creepy, but he was memorable. I wouldn’t be surprised if he eventually made a return — perhaps years down the road, if BK’s new food-centric approach fails to pan out the way they want.

  6. Rachel

    I’m kind of ambivalent toward the King; I found him creepy, but also mildly amusing. But after watching your three commercials, all I can think about is how much I could really go for a burger right now … (and I don’t even like Burger King!)

    • Joseph Giorgi

      My thoughts exactly! I never minded the whole “creepiness” factor that The King relied on. I always found those commercials to be pretty humorous. In a way, I’ll miss them — sort of.

  7. amy

    Super post Joe!

    To be completely honest I never grew up eating BK, so I don’t have an attachment to them now. This is probably why I don’t really care how they advertise their products to me hahaha.

    The King never bothered me, I thought the commercials were funny (the first two times I’d watch them). However, they never made me want to drop what I was doing and get a Whopper. So I can see why they dropped him in favor of actually showcasing their fresh ingredients.

    Loved the videos too!

    • Joseph Giorgi

      Glad you liked the videos. :)

      Great point — where we ate our fast food as kids has a lot to do with our choices nowadays. I used to eat Burger King all the time when I was growing up, so I’ve got more of an attachment to them than I do to McD’s or Wendy’s or any other fast food burger joint (but not by much).

  8. Jen

    I really like BK’s new advertising approach. The food looks real! I think that’s what I like most. Most fast-food commercials you see, depict perfect looking burgers and fries. But the reality is, food never looks that way.

    The King never freaked me out either, I kinda thought he was funny. I always found Ronald McDonald to be much creepier.

    Great Post Joe! :)

    • amy

      What about the “Ham-burglar”?!?! He still creeps me out when I see pictures of him and I’m no longer 5 years old.

    • Joseph Giorgi

      Thanks, Jen!

      I wholeheartedly agree. Ronald McDonald is FAR creepier than The King. Of course, we don’t see too much of that clown anymore either, probably because people finally started to realize how creepy he was.

  9. Jenna Markowski

    I must say that I am pretty indifferent to the King. I thought he was creepy, but I never really watched one of his commercials all the way through. I rarely watch live TV — I usually just watch what’s in my DVR and fast-forward the commercials! So since my relationship with the king was pretty much non-existent, the new advertisements probably won’t make too much of a difference for me. That one did make me really want a burger, though! Even though it doesn’t effect me personally, it will be interesting to see how this pans out for BK.

    • Joseph Giorgi

      It’ll be interesting indeed. Seeing BK opt for a less comedic approach is kind of weird at this point, so I guess we’ll see how consumers react. For the most part, I’m guessing that the reaction will be one of indifference. We’re all pretty much in the same boat (at this point): we all bypass the commercials with our DVR or on-demand services, which sort of renders most ads ineffective.

  10. Kyle

    Burger King without the King? It is a sad, sad day…

    I enjoyed the sense of humor that the King brought to BK’s commercials, but I can see how others were creeped out by him. I think they should focus on improving their fries before overhauling their commercials, but that’s just me.

    • Joseph Giorgi

      I actually love BK’s fries! Don’t get me wrong — McD’s are far superior, but I’ve always thought that BK’s fries were delicious in their own way.

      …And now I’m jonesing for some french fries!

  11. Marisa

    I would buy a burger from BK knowing that I will also be able to enjoy visualizing somebody eating that same burger while riding a horse, or hugging a sheep. I find the old advertisement the best out of all of them.

  12. Brand Characters: Top Three Terrific and Terrible Examples

    [...] mute. Worst yet, they kept him around for 8 years. Someone finally came to their senses though and sent the “King” packing. He brought too many questions to mind; why didn’t he talk? Did he smell like their Flame body [...]

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