Since it was founded in 1954, international fast food chain Burger King has employed many advertising programs. During the 1970s, its advertisements included a memorable jingle, the inspiration for its current mascot the Burger King and several well-known and parodied slogans, such as Have it your way and It takes two hands to hold a Whopper. From the early 1980s until approximately 2002, Burger King engaged a series of advertising agencies that produced many unsuccessful slogans and programs, including its least successful campaign, Where's Herb?.
In 2003, Burger King hired the Miami-based advertising agency Crispin Porter + Bogusky (CP+B), which revived the Burger King character used during Burger King's 1970s and 1980s Burger King Kingdom advertising campaign as a caricature now simply called "the King". CP+B also created a series of viral web-based advertisements to complement its television and print promotional campaigns on various social networks and various Burger King corporate pages. These viral campaigns, other new campaigns and a series of new product introductions, drew both positive and negative attention to Burger King and helped TPG and its partners earn approximately US$367 million in dividends. After the late-2000s recession, Burger King's owner, TPG Capital, divested itself of the chain in 2010; the new owner, 3G Capital, ended its relationship with CP+B and hired McGarryBowen to begin a new campaign targeted on a broader demographic.
Burger King successfully partnered with George Lucas's Lucasfilm to promote the 1977 movie Star Wars, one of the first product tie-ins in the fast food industry. The company's most successful tie-ins were those between 1990 and 2000, with successful campaigns involving Disney's animated films, including Beauty & the Beast, Toy Story, and the Pokémon franchise in 1999.
Pillsbury acquired the Burger King business in 1967, and a year later, BBDO were signed on as the company's advertising agency. The relationship continued until July 1976. From 1974, Burger King ran a series of much-lampooned but successful television commercials in which employees sing: "Hold the pickles, hold the lettuce. Special orders don't upset us. All we ask is that you let us serve it your way!" This advertising strategy aimed to contrast Burger King's flexibility with McDonald's famous rigidity. This theme has been reiterated in subsequent advertising campaigns. BBDO were believed to have been dropped because of their inability to originate a successful new campaign following their "Have It Your Way" campaign.
Burger King's first successful cross-promotional campaign was in 1977. It offered several collectible items, such as posters, glasses and sticker sets that featured scenes and characters from Star Wars. The promotional glasses have become collectors' items. The Star Wars tie-in continued with the remainder of the first Star Wars trilogy and the DVD release of both trilogies. During the 1984 television premiere of Star Wars, Burger King commercials were featured prominently.
In 1982, Burger King's television advertising campaign featured Sarah Michelle Gellar, then aged 4. In the advertisements, Gellar said that McDonald's burgers were 20% smaller than Burger King's. It was arguably the first attack on a food chain by a competitor. The campaign was controversial because prior to it, fast food advertisements only made vague allusions to the competition and never mentioned the name. McDonald's sued and the suit was settled the following year on undisclosed terms.
In November 1985, Burger King spent $40 million on the Where's Herb? advertising campaign. The campaign's premise was that Herb was the only man in America who had never eaten a Whopper. If a customer recognized him in any store, he or she would win US$5,000. The advertisements did not reveal Herb's appearance until the company's Super Bowl XX commercial, where Herb was revealed to be a bespectacled man in an ill-fitting suit. Herb toured stores across the country, appeared on The Today Show, and served as a guest timekeeper during WrestleMania 2. The campaign had little impact on sales and was quickly dropped. According to Advertising Age magazine, the Herb campaign was the "most elaborate advertising flop of the decade." Burger King's other 1980s advertising campaigns, such as "This is a Burger King town", "Fast food for fast times", and "We do it like you'd do it" were barely more successful.
In the early 1990s, Burger King advertised its new dinner offering – dinner baskets and table service – with the "BK Tee Vee" (or "BKTV") campaign, which used the taglines "BK Tee Vee... I Love this Place!" and "Your Way Right Away!", and featured Dan Cortese as "Dan: The Whopper Man." Burger King's lack of a successful advertising campaign continued during the 1980s and 1990s.
In September 2002, Burger King introduced its 99¢ Value Menu in response to Wendy's 99¢ Value Menu. The advertisements featured the comedian Adam Carolla as the voice of BK's drive thru. The menu was later renamed the BK Value Menu with prices starting at US$1.
Shortly after the acquisition of Burger King by TPG Capital in 2002, its new CEO Bradley (Brad) Blum set about reversing the fortunes of the company's advertising programs. The company reinstated its famous Have it your way motto and engaged Miami-based advertising agency Crispin Porter + Bogusky (CP+B), which was known for having a hip, subversive tack when creating campaigns for its clients. CP+B updated Burger King's image and changed its marketing strategy. The cups, bags and the company logo were redesigned with the intent to give and BK an appealing, culturally aware and modern image. Humorous statements, claims and product descriptions were printed on bags, product packaging and on in-store promotional materials, including a Burger King Bill of Rights, using the slogan Have it Your Way. CP+B created an advertising campaign that focused on television spots, print, web and product tie-ins.
CP+B reinstated the Burger King character used in the 1970s and 1980s for the Burger King Kingdom advertising campaign. The character was redesigned as a caricature of the original, now simply called the Burger King or just the King. The new incarnation replaced the singing and dancing Magical Burger King with a miming actor who wore an oversized, grinning plastic mask resembling the original actor who played King. Employing the practice of viral marketing, CP+B's advertisements generated significant word of mouth and a new use of what has become known as the Creepy King persona, an appellation that CP+B used in later advertisements. In April 2009, a CP+B advertisement for Burger King's "Texican burger" was removed from television because it caused an international uproar over insults to Mexico.
After purchasing the company in 2010, 3G Capital ended Burger King's relationship with CP+B and engaged the services of McGarryBowen. In August 2011, McGarryBowen produced its first Burger King campaign, which was for the California Whopper sandwich. The advertisements were the first in a campaign that de-emphasized the King and focused on ingredients and preparation methods.
The Burger King is a character created as the advertising mascot for the company that has been used in numerous television commercials and advertising programs. The character has undergone several iterations over the course of its company's history. The first iteration of the King was part of a Burger King sign at the first store in Miami, Florida in 1955. Later signs had the King shown sitting on a "burger throne" as well as atop the BK sign while holding a beverage. In the early 1970s Burger King started using a small, animated version of the King called Kurger Bing in its children's advertising where the animated Burger King was voiced by Allen Swift. By the late 70s, the original animated King was replaced by the "Marvelous Magical Burger King", a red-bearded, Tudor-era king who ruled the Burger King Kingdom and performed magic tricks that were mostly sleight-of-hand, but sometimes relied on camera tricks or involved his "Magic Ring" which could summon copious amounts of food. The children's ads featuring the King were phased out by the late 1980s in favor of the BK Kids Club Gang and other later programs.
When CP+B took over the advertising account of Burger King in 2003, They began devising a caricatured variation of the Burger King character from the Burger King Kingdom advertising campaign, now simply called "the King". During the use of CP+B's new version of the King, ads generated significant word of mouth for its new use of what various trade publications and Internet articles labeled "the Creepy King" persona, an appellation that BK came to favor and CP+B used in its ads. The farcical nature of the program led to the King becoming an internet meme with jokes about his huge head, and frequently portrayed as a fiend with monstrous intents, often accompanied with the catchphrase "Where is your God now?". However, the use of the king failed to provide a consistent message regarding the company and its products. Upon the take over of Burger King by 3G Capital in 2010, the company terminated its relationship with CP+B and in August 2011 Burger King announced that character would be retired as the primary mascot for the brand.
The first Burger King logo used text and was introduced on 28 July 1953. The first graphical representation of the Burger King character in occurred the 1960s and is sometimes called the Sitting King logo, as the Burger King character is shown sitting atop a burger holding a beverage. Several versions were produced; the King is shown either sitting atop a hamburger or on an inverted trapezoid with the company name along the top and its motto Home of the Whopper below it. Some signs omitted the King and only had the trapezoid. This logo was used in various forms until 1 May 1969 when the Burger King "bun halves" logo made its debut, and has continued in use until the present. The logo resembles a hamburger; with two orange semi-circular "buns" surrounding the name. On 1 May 1994 BK updated the logo with a graphical tightening, replacing the "bulging" font with a smoother font with rounded edges.
The current "blue crescent" logo was designed by the New York-based Sterling Group and made its official debut on 1 July 1999. Sterling Group changed the color of the restaurant's name from red to burgundy, tilted the bun halves and the font on an axis, used a smaller bun motif and wrapped the burger with a blue crescent, which gave it a more circular appearance. Most restaurants did not acquire new signs, menus, and drive-thru ordering speakers until 2001. All secondary signage was updated with the new logo and all sign posts were repainted to match the blue coloring of the new crescent, replacing the original black.
The logo of Australian franchisee, Hungry Jack's, is based on the Burger King "bun halves" design, and currently uses a variation of the second generation "bun halves" logo and the smoother 1994. When the company opened its first Russian store in Moscow, a version of the logo with Cyrillic lettering, styled "Бypгep Kинг", was used. In Arabic-speaking countries, the logo is reversed and uses characters from the Arabic alphabet (برجر كنج), but is otherwise identical to the "blue crescent" English logo. In Israel, a Hebrew logo has been used for a while in 2002, and has been replaced with the English version since. The logo is reversed (like the Arabic version) and uses characters from the Hebrew alphabet (ברגר קינג), but is otherwise identical to the English logo.
Burger King created a separate logo for its children's products with the introduction of its Burger King Kid's Club in 1990. The original logo, an inverted triangle with blue text, was used in television and print advertising, signage, toy and meal packaging. Burger King changed this logo several times and introduced several local versions in its international market. In 1992, the company replaced the original logo with one similar to its corporate "bun halves" logo, the original Burger King text logo on a single line with the text "Kids Club" text under it on two lines. The most current logo in North America is for its "Club BK" program which it introduced in July 2008.
Starting in the 1970s and running into the 1980s, Burger King's "Kids' Club" program gave children coupons for selected products each month, a small toy, and a surprise on the child's birthday. Burger King has been known for its paper crowns, which are sometimes redesigned to match any promotions the restaurant may be running. The original "Kids' Club" advertising featured a small, animated King character Called "Kurger Bing", who would travel on a modified chopper with a throne as the seat, visit a Burger King store and present the children with small gifts. The tag line was "Burger King: Where kids are King!"
In 1976, the original animated King was replaced by the "Marvelous Magical Burger King". He was a red-bearded, Tudor-era king, played by Fred Barton, who ruled the Burger King Kingdom and performed magic tricks that were mostly sleight-of-hand, but sometimes relied on camera tricks or involved his "Magic Ring" which could summon copious amounts of food. Other Burger King Kingdom characters included:The Duke of Doubt was the King's nemesis, who constantly tried to prove that the King's magic was not real; he always failed, and each commercial that featured him ended with the tag-line, "No doubt about it, Duke."
The Burger Thing, a large, three-dimensional painting of a hamburger that talked.
Sir Shake-A-Lot, a knight who was often physically shaking; he had a craving for Burger King milkshakes and armor made of BK Cups.
The Wizard of Fries, a robot that could "multifry," or generate French fries when it was given a sample.
This campaign paralleled McDonald's McDonaldland children's commercials, which featured "Ronald McDonald," "The Hamburglar," and "Mayor McCheese," along with other characters and mascots.
The ads featuring the Burger King Kingdom were phrased out by the late 1980s in favor of the BK Kids Club.
In 1989, Burger King re-launched its children's meal program as the Burger King Kids Club meal in the US and in New Zealand. The Burger King Kids Club Gang, a multi-ethnic group of fictional characters, were created to promote the Burger King Kids Club meal by providing a group of stylized characters. The members of the gang were:Kid Vid, (AKA Ryan Mcfarland), a blond Caucasian boy who loved video games and technology; he was the leader of the group.
Boomer, a sports loving Caucasian tomboy with red hair tied into a ponytail.
I.Q., a male Caucasian nerd with red hair and freckles who wore red glasses, a green lab coat, and a pocket protector.
Jaws, a tall African-American boy with an insatiable appetite.
J.D., a dog and the group's mascot.
Lingo, a multi-lingual, Hispanic boy who liked art and carried an easel.
Snaps, a blonde Caucasian girl who always carried her camera.
Wheels, a Caucasian paraplegic boy in a wheelchair, with brown hair, blue eyes and freckles.
In the early 2000s a new female character was added to the group:Jazz, an Asian girl who loved music and wore a beret.
In their birthday month, Burger King "Kids Club" members receive an annual mailing that contains games, product information, and a coupon for a free Kids' Meal. Although the BK Kids' Club Gang promotion has been discontinued in the US, the club continues to operate and is the largest club of its kind in North America.The characters can still be seen on playground signs and decorations in some locations.
In 2005, the Kids Club Gang was replaced by the Honbatz characters with a group of characters designed to appeal to the preteen market. Each Honbatz has a distinct personality: the class clown, the brain or the rebel. They have appeared in numerous advertisements and are still used in some European markets and New Zealand. The Honbatz characters are:Mixmax, a punk who likes showing off;
Thisorthat, a green monster that likes to eat everything but cannot decide where to start;
Bonny, a studious character and the only female in the group;
Chomp, a large, intimidating, Honbatz who is really a big softie that wants to fit in;
the Eeeps, a group of small, red, ketchup-craving creatures.
In September 2006, Burger King reintroduced an updated version of its 1970's animated king design. This was printed on cups, bags and in non tie-in children's advertising. The redesigned king was portrayed as a sarcastic character who sometimes gets into trouble for his mischief-making adventures.
On 12 September 2007, Burger King announced that it was joining the The Council of Better Business Bureaus Children's Food and Beverage Advertising Initiative. The program, a voluntary self-regulation program designed to adjust advertising messages aimed at children so that they encourage healthy eating habits and lifestyles. As part of this new initiative, Burger King stated that it would restrict its advertising aimed at children under 12 that uses third-party licensed characters to Kids Meals that meet its nutrition guidelines, refrain from advertising in elementary schools and refrain from product placement in media primarily aimed at children under 12, promote Kids Meals that meet its nutrition guidelines and promote healthy lifestyles and healthy dietary choices in its advertising. Several groups, including the CSPI, lauded the move as guarded good news.
In 1983, Burger King introduced advertising to emphasize value or its opening hours. The company encouraged its stores to keep their drive thru outlets open after midnight; most QSR locations closed between 10:00pm and 11:00pm. In mid-2007, it again began advertising late opening times in response to the late night programs of Wendy's and McDonald's.
A 2005–2006 viral advertising campaign by CP+B used model and actress Brooke Burke in a commercial in which she and The King went through a mock celebrity courtship. Paparazzi-style photographs and videos appeared in gossip columns and celebrity gossip websites. The campaign followed their meeting on the set of the Whopperettes ad, dating, risqué shots of them at the beach, an engagement and summary break up. Burke also appears as a playable character and cover girl in the Xbox 360 games PocketBike Racer and Big Bumpin'. In the UK in 2009, CP+B and Cow PR launched a perfume, called Burger King Flame; Piers Morgan appeared in a poster campaign and a viral video.
Burger King's first major tie-in, and one of the first for the QSR industry, was the 1977 film Star Wars in which BK sold a set of glasses featuring the main characters from the film. From that point on, competition between the major QSR chains became an important part of advertising in the fast food industry; McDonald's partnered with Disney in the 1980s and early 1990s. In 1994 Burger King signed a ten-film contract with Disney, a venture that was very successful. Burger King promoted films such as Beauty and the Beast (1991), Aladdin (1992), The Lion King (1994), Pocahontas (1995), Toy Story (1995) and The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1996). These cross promotions were rivaled only by McDonald's/Ty Beanie Babies cross-promotion in 1999–2000.
Burger King continued it partnership with Lucasfilm for the two subsequent films, The Empire Strikes Back (1980) and Return of the Jedi (1984). It also promoted the last film of the second trilogy, Revenge of the Sith (2005). Burger King lost the first run tie-in rights to The Phantom Menace (1999) and Attack of the Clones (2002), to Tricon Global (KFC, Taco Bell, and Pizza Hut) but had an extensive tie-in with the DVD release of the two trilogies in 2006. In 2008, Burger King again partnered with Lucasfilm and Amblin Entertainment for the release of the film, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.
Another long running Burger King tie-in partnership has been with 20th Century Fox's property The Simpsons. Burger King's first promotion with Fox began in 1990, when the show was launched as a full-time series. Burger King sold a set of 8-to-12-inch (20 to 30 cm) dolls featuring each member of the Simpsons family. Other Simpsons promotions included a British Kids Club toy in 1998, 2000 and 2001; a Halloween-themed Kid's Club toy in 2001 and 2002, a summertime special at Hungry Jack's in 2001 and The Simpsons Movie in 2007. As part of the promotion for the Simpsons Movie, CP+B produced a commercial with a Simpsons version of the King that had yellow skin, an overbite and four fingers. A website allowed people to make a "Simpsonized" version of themselves from uploaded pictures.