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Slump-hit Burger King drops mascot

Burger King’s spooky ‘The King’ mascot is retiring so the struggling burger chain can refocus its marketing to reach new customers. Photo: PA

Burger King’s spooky ‘The King’ mascot is retiring so the struggling burger chain can refocus its marketing to reach new customers. Photo: PA

Fast food giant Burger King has said it is retiring its mascot, ‘The King’, in an effort to turn around falling sales.

The chain is focusing its marketing on the freshness of its food rather than the funny-factor of its ads, which feature a man with an oversized plastic head who in recent TV campaigns has been shown peeping into people’s windows and popping up next to them in bed.

The company is rolling out a new campaign without The King to tout its fresh ingredients and new products like its California Whopper, which has fresh guacamole.

“We won’t be seeing The King for a while,” Burger King spokesman BJ Monzon said.

The new focus is a departure for Burger King, which has long targeted its adverts to young male teens. The economic downturn has battered its core customer – young males have been particularly hard hit by unemployment – and Burger King is looking to boost declining sales by appealing to the mothers, families and others that rivals like McDonald’s have successfully courted.

“I think it’s great they are doing something as opposed to just withering away,” said Joel Cohen, a restaurant marketing consultant. “They are taking an approach that is like not that much different from what McDonald’s is doing and growing up.”

The new focus comes as Burger King attempts to regain its edge. While competitors have grown by updating their offerings, Burger King largely stuck to its menu of burgers and fries.

McDonald’s, for instance, has worked to portray itself as a healthier, place to eat, offering wireless access in restaurants, updating its decor and introducing smoothies, oatmeal and yoghurt parfaits.

Subway has grown quickly by emphasising fresh, quick and affordable food. The company also has faced competition from other burger chains in the US, like Sonic and Five Guys Burgers and Fries.

As a result, Burger King, which was once in a neck-and-neck competition with McDonald’s, has had slumping sales. In 2010, the top three US restaurant chains –McDonald’s, Subway and Starbucks – all reported strong revenue gains, while fourth-seat Burger King’s revenue fell 2.5 per cent.

And in the second quarter, Burger King’s net income fell more than 13 per cent to €30 million. Its revenue fell four per cent to €361 million. During the same quarter, McDonald’s profit rose 15 per cent to €847 million and its revenue rose 16 per cent to €4 billion.

“Whatever they are doing isn’t working, so it’s time to do something different,” said Bob Goldin, analyst at Chicago-based food consultancy Technomic.

“There is a sense of urgency to get back on their feet.”

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