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Fast-food chain Burger King is making a 180 degree shift in its marketing, with a decision to drop its "King" mascot and focus on — sit down before you read this! — product.
For years, Burger King had placed its bets on edgy commercials by creative powerhouse Crispin Porter + Bogusky, targeting men in their teens and 20s. Crispin's campaigns got a lot of attention, and plaudits from the advertising community. Unfortunately, however, advertising awards don't necessarily translate into sales, and Burger King has been badly lagging main rival McDonald's. According to consulting firm Technomic, Burger King's same-store sales declined 6% in the first quarter; compare that to a 3% rise for Mc Donald's.
This discrepancy in performance is not the result of McDonald's having more "creative" advertising or a hipper mascot (Ronald Mc Donald is many things — hip he's not). But while Burger King was trying to sell consumers an edgy brand image, McDonald's focused on something much more mundane: selling burgers, fries and coffee. The rest is marketing history.
Now, under new ownership, and with a new management and marketing team, Burger King is focusing on what matters: updating the stores, fixing its food and changing its image. As Alex Maccedo, SVP, marketing, put it to USA Today: "People want a reason to go back to Burger King ... There are no plans to bring the King back anytime soon."
Along with new management, Burger King has also hired a new ad agency, McGarry Bowen. Mc Garry's ads are often derided in ad industry circles as conventional, formulaic and unhip. The criticism isn't entirely unjustified ... but who cares? Last I heard, advertising is not about creating art house shorts; it's about selling stuff. Against that standard, McGarry's work tends to perform well. A new campaign by McGarry, launching this weekend, will introduce the California Whopper, made with guacamole.
Whether the new burger will catch on remains to be seen, but one thing is for sure: the marketing campaign will give it a shot at success. The entire TV commercial will focus single-mindedly on sights and sounds of the burger's ingredients being washed and diced.
And amidst all this slicing and dicing, "the King" finds himself like Charles I and Louis XVI ... a head shorter.