Fried, broiled or grilled, with special sauce or your favorite combination of fixings, a slab of meat on a bun is still a hamburger. MaKing the burgers is easy. The people who work in the highly-competitive, billion-dollar burger business know that the hard part is getting people to buy them.
So how do the burger heavyweights tackle the task? McDonald's has enlisted its ever-smiling clown, Ronald. For years Wendy's featured its folksy founder, Dave Thomas.
After 50 years, Burger King, founded and headquartered in Miami, has called in the King. Russ Klein, Burger King's worldwide head of marketing, who likes to boast, with a mischievous smile, that unlike the friendly persona of Dave Thomas or Ronald McDonald, the King is by design what Klein calls, "a little creepy."
"One of our mantras at Burger King," said Klein, "is that sometimes it's more important to be provocative than pleasant, and so we very deliberately created a character with a persona that's a bit mysterious and enigmatic."
You may have seen the enigmatic character, complete with crown and sinister smile, featured in television ads, in interactive form on the Internet, and in popular-selling video games. Since he was introduced four years ago, the King has been earning his keep: Sales at Burger King have hit an all-time high, and over the last year the stock price has almost doubled.
Although, it's important to note that despite the King's hard work, McDonald' is still the real burger royalty with sales of $22 billion, 10 times Burger King's revenues. Which is exactly why Burger King tries harder -- and weirder.
"At times you will offend some. We never intend to do that, but the reality is, in a large-scale brand like Burger King that tries to take a point of view to the marketplace with our positioning and with our advertising, sometimes not everything we do is going to be everybody's cup of tea," Klein explained.
Indeed, the King could never be mistaken for McDonald's smiling, cheerful mascot -- a deliberate move, according to Klein.
"A brand like McDonald's is one that tends to mean more of a regression to childhood, perhaps more of a Disney-esque set of qualities to it. A brand like Wendy's tends to be more paternal, more old-fashioned. … Burger King tends to be all that's good about adolescence, the stormy side, the perhaps somewhat more masculine side."
Advertisements like Burger King's "Manthem," which features a man singing and throwing away fancy, fussy food to have lunch his way -- the Burger King way, speak just to that point. The ad is sung to the tune of Helen Reddy's unforgettable "I Am Woman," with very different words:
I am man, hear me roar
In numbers too big to ignore
And I'm way too hungry to settle for chick food!
'Cause my stomach's starting to growl,
And I'm going on the prowl,
For a Texas Double Whopper!
"Man that's good!"
Or yes, I'm a guy!
I'll admit I've been fed quiche!
Wave tofu bye-bye!
Now it's for Whopper beef I reach
I will eat this meat.
Chorus (Eat this meat)
'Till my innie turns into an outie!
I am starved! I am incorrigible! And I need to scarf a burger beef bacon jalepeno good thing down!
I am hungry!
(I am hungry)
I am incorrigible!
I AM MAN!
The Texas Double Whopper: Eat like a man. Man.