Whether you love ‘em or hate ‘em, the leading QSR’s are bringing back their corporate mascots. The campaigns are strongly millennial focused, riding on the wonders of the #TBT phenomena.
Earlier this year McDonalds evolved the Hamburglar into a handsome, grilling dad. This campaign coincides with CEO Easterbrook claiming his top priority is focusing on better and higher quality food while looking back to “the days when things were simpler.” Mr. Easterbrook, do you think your franchisees believe the Hamburglar will be the key to revitalize a same-store sales drop of 2.2 percent? Do you think the hamburger hoarder is the right image for families who are ratcheting up their demand for real and healthy food? And finally, given the massively altered American restaurant landscape, shouldn’t every fiber of your marketing team be forward looking and less focused on the business of resurrection?
KFC soon followed suit, with a reincarnated, quirky and deep throat chuckling Colonel played by comedian Darrel Hammond. With this, KFC hoped to reposition the brand, as “what made us great is still what makes us great.” Sadly, however, faux-Sanders fails to bring back any of the original, genuine and charismatic Colonel Sanders. (The operative word being “genuine”). How do you, KFC, expect to appeal to millennials when your goodwill ambassador died (RIP Harland David Sanders) before the average millennial was even born? How is this strategy growing market share for KFC?
And finally, enter the creepy “King” wild card. Burger King announced that they hoped the revival of the King would convey the confident and bold spirit of the brand. How do you believe the revival of the royal creep who sneaks into your bed and raps about square butts will lure consumers to eat more chicken nuggets? What’s the ROI on spending a million dollars to get into the ring with Mayweather? Or is this “your way” of bringing news to a brand that has systematically obliterated its value proposition?
The three fast food giants are, to a degree, appealing to millennials and riding on the “TBT” momentum. However, there is one certainty here: The mascot resurrection is ultimately a stunt used to trigger consumer nostalgia. While this “throw back” may evoke water-colored memories of times past, the mistiness soon dissipates with the reality that the food is still the same. The food is still made fast. The food is primarily frozen. The food is still fried. And most importantly, the fast food category is still running on vapor.
So I have arrived at my last and final question. Dear Hamburglar, Colonel Sanders and creepy King, when will you stop trying to woo us with times past and start living in the present, where more relevant value propositions and quality products rule the day? That will be the catch to increase AUVs, comps and market share.