I’m not quite sure why all fast-food chains have to have creepy mascot characters, but it does certainly seem to be a trend. McDonald’s has the Hamburgler. The Noid, a character created for an ad campaign by Domino’s Pizza, was also certified nightmare-fuel. And the Spongmonkeys created by Quizno’s seemed like they were the concoction of someone who had taken entirely too much PCP.
But we’re not here to talk about any of those seriously f***ed up mascots. Today, we’re looking through the history of the Burger King mascot: his birth, his death, and his phoenix-like rebirth that absolutely no one asked for.
If you’ve never seen what the Burger King mascot looks like, that probably means you’ve never been to Burger King. And if you’ve never been to Burger King, good for you. It’s trash. I cannot fathom why anyone would choose to eat at a Burger King when there are restaurants like Chick-fil-A in this world. Did you forget that they once served the black-bunned Halloween Whopper that made people’s poop green?
The creepy Burger King mascot is just one more reason why you should avoid this franchise. Do yourself a favor and stop eating fast food. And, if you’re going to eat fast food, choose somewhere better than Burger King. Alright, rant over.
The Origin of the Burger King
Considering that the name of the restaurant has been “Burger King” since 1954, it was only a matter of time before the marketing executives brought in an actual king as their mascot. But, why did the king they went with have to have such a horrifyingly large and plastic head? Well, it all started with balloons.
In the early days of fast food chains, it was not uncommon for these restaurants to hire clown-type entertainers to entice children to come and eat at their establishments. These entertainers would perform magic tricks, engage in general shenanigans, and blow up balloons for the kids while they ordered their meals. Yes, it was all very strange.
Anyway, Burger King was no different. To keep things consistent across their franchises, they sent out a bunch of plastic king heads to put on top of the helium tanks that were used to blow up the balloons. This was the origin of the nightmarish plastic Burger King head.
Fast forward to the 1970s and the marketing team at Burger King seemed to have gotten their senses back. They came out with a series of television commercials featuring a king with a normal-sized head to represent their brand.
Was he still extremely creepy? Yes.
Plus, there was also another odd character involved named The Duke of Doubt that made the Burger King look cute and cuddly. Still, the Burger King marketers of the 1970s, at the very least, got the head size right. That’s more than we can say of the modern version of The Burger King.
The Death of a King
To the relief of everyone, sometime during the late 1970s or 1980s, the Burger King character disappeared from the restaurant’s marketing campaigns entirely. I suppose they realized that this horrifying character was better off put to rest.
In 1982, Burger King shifted its focus to directly combatting its competitors with an ad that claimed that McDonald’s burgers were 20% smaller than their own. This was a big deal because, prior to this ad campaign, fast food advertisements had never before directly referred to their competitors by name.
In 1985, Burger King spent $40 million on a new advertising campaign called Where’s Herb? that offered $5,000 to any customer that recognized a man named Herb in one of their restaurants.
Herb was supposed to be a bespectacled man in an ill-fitting suit, and he was also supposed to be the only man in the United States who had never tried a Whopper. After Herb was revealed in a Super Bowl XX commercial, he toured all across the country, appearing on The Today Show, and even guest-starring in WrestleMania 2. This was the golden age of Burger King marketing.
Things took a turn for the worst, however, when a Miami-based marketing firm by the name of Crispin Porter + Bogusky got involved. Not only did this marketing firm bring back the extremely unsettling character known as the Burger King, but they also conceived a new character that beat the original king on the creepy scale by a longshot.
The Crispin Porter + Bogusky Era
Alright, before we address the reemergence of the Burger King, we need to have a brief chat about the Subservient Chicken. This was an ad campaign devised by Crispin Porter + Bogusky to promote the new TenderCrisp chicken sandwich as a part of their new “Have It Your Way” campaign.
Naturally, the “Have It Your Way” phrase led to the company running a series of videos over the web that involved a chicken being ordered around in a vaguely sexual way. This is the legacy of Crispin Porter + Bogusky.
To build upon that tragic legacy, the Miami-based marketing firm decided it would be a good idea to bring back the creepy Burger King. As the story goes, one of the executives at the firm was searching through eBay and stumbled upon one of the old Burger King heads that was used for the helium balloon tanks way back in the day. From there, they decided to add these oversized, plastic heads to The Burger King’s character. And, thus, the modern Burger King mascot was born.
Not to be outdone by his subservient chicken, the Burger King came back creepier than ever. Instead of launching a normal commercial to mark his return, the company decided the very first reappearance of the Burger King should involve the creepy character waking up in bed next to a man and then offering him a breakfast sandwich. Great. Now the King is crawling into people’s beds unannounced.
After a slew of equally disturbing commercials, the franchise once again canceled the King mascot in 2011. He wasn’t done, though. The Burger King would reappear a few years later in a very big way.
The King of the Ring
Think back to the 2015 boxing match between Manny Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather. Maybe you remember the long rounds of technical boxing that left many viewers unsatisfied. But do you remember that the Burger King actually walked out of the tunnel as a part of Mayweather’s entourage?
That’s right. Burger King paid a whopping $1 million to have the King walk out next to Mayweather, and that was his first appearance since he was discontinued in 2011 for sneaking into strangers’ beds uninvited.
Since that historic boxing match, Burger King has stuck by their creepy mascot. He can still be seen in many of their advertising campaigns, terrifying children just as he did in the old days.
As a final side note: let’s never forget that Burger King released a series of video games for Xbox and Xbox 360 that starred their mascot and were absolutely amazing (even if they were poorly made).
My favorite of the three games was Sneak King, where you played as the Burger King, delivering hot sandwiches to hungry customers. At least there was one positive that came out of Burger King’s creepy mascot.