PR pros weigh in on Burger King's decision to drop the 'King'

MIAMI: Burger King's decision to drop the King mascot was applauded by PR executives, who said the fast food chain needs to shift its marketing strategy to promote its healthier food options.

MIAMI: Burger King's decision to drop the King mascot was applauded by PR executives, who said the fast food chain needs to shift its marketing strategy to promote its healthier food options.

Burger King said last week that it's getting rid of the King mascot, which became wildly popular in 2003 when the company launched a new ad campaign created by Crispin Porter + Bogusky.

Burger King is now working with its new agency, McGarryBowen, on developing a new marketing image with the goal of reaching new demographics, according to a news release. Burger King  declined further comment on the mascot's retirement or its upcoming marketing strategy.

Rich Goldblatt, SVP and director of PR agency M Booth's Better4You practice, said that Burger King is making the right move by focusing more on its food products rather than its mascot.

“Kudos to Burger King for dethroning the King,” he said.  “Continuing to herald the King would devalue the marketing of BK's new menu of healthier, fresh food options.”

Steve Bryant, president of Publicis Consultants USA, who helped launch the Jared campaign for Subway, added that Burger King is on the right track, but said that he thinks the company needs to highlight its “fire-grilled beef” in order to attract broader audiences, particularly moms.

Since Taco Bell is price-value oriented and McDonald's is concentrating on healthy food products, Burger King should “get back to its core” and home in on the charcoaled preparation methods that make the company stand out, Bryant said, adding that he thinks the new television ads, which spotlight the California Whopper sandwich, are working, but could be a little more inventive.

“If you look at the press from the advertising community, they're largely panning it as uncreative and uninspired, but I think Burger King needed to go to that,” he said. "You'd like to see a little more creativity, but I don't think you can judge the campaign from the opening spots.”

Jeff Davis, SVP and senior partner at Fleishman-Hillard, stressed that the marketing strategy needs to be a bit more shocking or engaging in order to compete with other brands that have bigger marketing budgets. The King mascot worked when it debuted because of its “dead-pan humor,” but now the company needs something else to distinguish itself in the fast-food industry, he said.

"I know we're saying goodbye to the King, but I don't know how long we'll say goodbye to him for,” Davis said. “As far as having the command of a marketing arsenal, Burger King is going to have to have a change-up in its marketing mix, so an element of surprise is going to need to be there, but it's a question of changing the surprise.”

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