May 27, 2004

Whatever happened to Burger King?

Growing up in America in the 70s and 80s, Burger King was an essential component of my fast food and cultural landscape. I always preferred my burgers flame-broiled and was adamant in my desire to “have it my way”. There was always news of the burger wars and making a choice between MickeyD’s and Burger King was as important as choosing between Nike and Reebok.

Now, however, things seemed to have changed. Burger King, after years of lousy advertising and lackluster new products, feels irrelevant to the cultural burger discussion (if such a discussion is actually occurring). The King, subject to an endless series of corporate owners and structures over the past decade, has lost his way. During that same period McDonald’s managed to sink sharply and then find its way back to power.

This all occurred to me while watching the latest Burger King commercial. That commercial, best described as a weird designer creating pre-cooked meat in a sack to layer over salad, was first mentioned by my wife. I didn’t really know what she was talking about until I saw it myself. Once I saw it I knew. There was nothing appealing and nothing even remotely cool about this commercial or the product it was offering. Frankly, it veered into the realm of somewhat disturbing. This is in stark contrast to the “I’m lovin’ it” campaign McDonald’s is riding now.

Near my home outside Seattle I could not tell you where the nearest Burger King is located. I know where the shells of what used to be Burger King outlets are located, but the only working store I know of is in the SeaTac Airport, a good 25 miles from my house. I absolutely know where my nearest MickeyD, Wendy’s, and Jack-in-the-Box are located. Burger King not only has no relevance to me, it doesn’t even give me an opportunity to try their products in an easy fashion.

In the midst of the current Carb insanity, B. King should be riding a wave of success. Instead, it is drifting further and further into cultural obscurity. I miss getting clam strips at HoJo’s and soon I will miss my Whopper and onion rings at Burger King.

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