Fast-food mascots are an endangered species
Grimace, The King and The Colonel fade away as the big, established chains ditch their legacy images to draw millennials.
As our colleagues at CNBC have noted, the fast-food mascot is becoming an endangered species on the restaurant landscape. Spurred by the belief that millennials can't relate to a long-deceased Kentucky Colonel or to bones in their chicken, Yum Brands' (YUM) KFC announced last week that an "upscale" new version would ditch the Colonel and serve only the boneless version of their favorite chicken.
KFC isn't the only chain ditching its mascot and disguising itself as something other than fast food. The Hamburglar, Mayor McCheese and the rest of Ronald McDonald's McDonaldland friends have been unemployed for more than a decade after McDonald's (MCD) was accused of pandering to kids.
Gidget, the Taco Bell chihuahua, was fired in 2000 amid slumping sales and increasing scrutiny from advocacy groups. Silent Burger King (BKW) pitchman The King got the boot in 2011 for being too creepy and catering a bit too much to "The Hangover"-watching males ages 18 to 35.
Even Hooters has tweaked its wide-eyed double-entendre owl, but only after sales slumped and competitors encroached on its "breastaurant" space.
How has it been working out for everyone? McDonald's sales are flagging, while fast-casual competitors including Chipotle Mexican Grill (CMG) are taking off. The common belief is that millennials want nothing to do with old-school fast food and are hitting Panera Bread (PNRA) in droves.
The reality is that they like fast-food just fine, but tend to dig places with fresh ingredients like Five Guys and In 'N' Out Burger.
They also seem to be just fine with establishments that embrace their fast-food roots. Wendy's (WEN) tweaked its pigtailed mascot, but was named America's favorite large fast-food chain, thanks largely to its fresh ingredients. Taco Bell and Burger King, meanwhile, have embraced value menus, waffle tacos, fake McRib sandwiches and delivery in positioning themselves as the anti-McDonald's.
However, the folks under the Golden Arches have seen premium offerings like Angus burgers and snack wraps fail miserably and serve only to bloat its menu, while it toys with late-night breakfast and McWraps to win back customers. This continued inconsistency, coupled with phased-out mascots and rivals' brazen grabs at millennial wallets, is stripping fast-food chains of their identities and turning them into shallow husks of their former selves.
In an attempt to counter surging chains that do one thing and do it well, the old-line fast-food giants are throwing everything at the wall instead of sticking with the formula that brought them their initial success. But in killing the fast-food mascots, they could be poisoning their brands as well.
Mcdonalds is going down the tubes because they serve bad food, have reduced the size of their nasty processed burgers to not much more than sliders, only fill French fry containers half way up, don't offer super size anymore to those of us who want to choose how much we eat, hire rude ghetto punks and stoners who don't know the meaning of customer service, or Mexicans who can't understand English.
I really doubt it has anything to do with the McDonaldland characters.
Bob's Big Boy, don't remember what the burgers tasted like but I remember the big statue of a boy holding a giant hamburger.
I think the problem is the service. I refuse to go to Burger King for this reason. The last time I went to Burger King, I had to wait twenty minutes for a hamburger and fries. There was only one car ahead of me and no customers in the restaurant. Another time at BK I had to wait ten minutes to get a soda. The workers looked slovenly, lazy, and dirty. I only go to a couple of McDs where they have hired older workers who greet you with a smile and some courtesy.
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