We’re witnessing a resurgence of the classic fast food mascot, characters who in some cases have been put away for more than two decades. The Burger King, Hamburglar and Colonel Sanders all made their highly publicized comebacks in recent weeks, and people have definitely noticed.
Burger King is working on an interesting way to gain brand exposure, making The King a part of major sporting events for marketing purposes. First, he escorted Floyd Mayweather Jr. to the ring in the ultra-hyped Mayweather v. Pacquiao fight in early May, and has since been seen in new television commercials for Burger King, and even standing next to American Pharaoh trainer Bob Baffert at the Belmont Stakes. Prior to this, the last time The King appeared in marketing was 2002.
McDonald’s also resurrected the beloved Hamburglar around the same time, giving him a substantial makeover in the process. Hiding out as a hip suburban dad for the last 13 years, he robble-robbled into our Facebook feeds and generated a healthy amount of press in the process. The new look certainly raised some eyebrows, and perhaps stole the show from the new Sirlion Burger he was tasked with promoting.
Not to be outdone, KFC brought Colonel Sanders back to our screens by way of SNL legend Darrell Hammond. This redux is by far the most substantial, as the Colonel’s appearance coincides with updated packaging, store designs and menu items. After 21 years without the Colonel doing marketing work, It seems that a lot of people didn’t know or had forgotten that he – Col. Harland Sanders – was indeed a real person. To remedy this, KFC released the interactive “Hall of Colonels” website, painting him as a kind of genteel Chuck Norris of fried chicken through a series of notable stories from the man’s life.
The prevailing question is – why now? Part of it is certainly “why not?,” as these mascots have their own followings and a ton of brand equity built in, and so much time away makes them fresh, new, and in the Hamburglar’s case, perfect for reinvention. The buzz created by each of these rebirths shows what a mascot can do for a brand, as news of all three comebacks was impossible to ignore.
Another part is that the characters appeal to certain generations who grew up with them in advertising and will hopefully be drawn to their brands again. It’s no secret that Americans are eating less traditional fast foods like burgers and fried items, leaning instead towards upstarts like Chipotle, who heavily promote fresh and natural ingredients. Clearly, price is taking a back seat to quality when it comes to quick meals.
Where does this leave us? Are we entering the Golden Age of Mascots? Will McDonald’s revive Grimace and Mayor McCheese, too? Will The Burger King drive the Zamboni during a Stanley Cup game? Will Colonel Sanders usher in sales success with mandolin music and white suits? Hard to say, but it’s been entertaining so far.