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The Same, But Different.

The King and Ronald McDonald.

Theses characters are branded deeply into into the hide of our cultural sub-concious. If asked to draw them on paper, sight unseen, I’d venture to guess that most of us could create an acceptable resemblance regardless of drawing skills.

Is it good branding? Perhaps. That depends on who you talk to. The ad agency responsible for shifting  Burger King’s image from the #2 fast food burger joint, to the left of center, oddball viral sensation, would tell you yes. If it were Burger King’s executives pouring over a spread sheet, their definition of that campaign’s success would be much different.  In fact, they were still number # 2, until Wendy’s edged them out  briefly in 2011. It’s good to note that year Wendy’s made some major changes in their own branding, creating a real life Wendy. Young, cute, quirky and relatable. She’s someone you’d want to sit and have a burger with.

Ronald McDonald on the other hand, wildly successful in terms of brand recognition as well as financial success.
Timeless? Yes.
Instantly Recognizable? Yes.
Ridiculously Cheesy & Creepy? Yes and Yes.
$34 BILLION in sales? Wow.

My 11 year old daughter when asked which character she liked better, chose The King, but prefers the food at McDonalds. Judging from the numbers, she’s not alone.

As designers and marketers, we can never guarantee how a brand will be perceived in the marketplace. Design is always subjective to the end user.

In the end, the execution is less important, if the desired result of setting one apart from their competitors is met.  Even a logo created in Microsoft Word using clip art can do just that.

Branding at it’s core  is meant to differentiate businesses, even if they do exactly the same thing.  In the case of Mcdonalds & Burger King, that definition is even more important, as both have goofy characters representing an international chain of fast food hamburger restaurants.

Ultimately, though they are similar on many levels, they are drastically different.

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About the author
Tommy Spero
CD @SoulNYC Founder @MixLuvCollab @MusicMy1stLang Hubby/Dad / #Drummer / Speaker / Writer / Marketing Expert on All American Makers premiering January 2015 on @ScienceChannel


Pete W

2013-05-25 12:38:36 Reply

McDonald’s is so deeply ingrained in our culture, it doesn’t really need Ronald. It’s probably why you never see him in tv spots anymore. For good reason. Clowns creep most people out. Most sensible people, anyway. Whenever I actually look at him, I can’t help but think of Pennywise the Clown from “It”.

But think about it. Some brands are iconographic without any help at all. Think fast food, the first brand that pops into your head is almost invariably the Golden Arches. Think vacation for the kids, bang, Disney. Soda, Coke. Cigarettes, Marlboro. Beer, Budweiser. These are giants which are painted into our subconscience. Ubiquity trumps quality in many instances. Ask me, Wendy’s and Burger King put out a better quality product, fries not withstanding. But MickeyD’s is BIGGER. Is “Sometimes a product sells itself” a marketing adage?. The runners up need the red hair and the goofy king. For me, the red hair works. The king doesn’t. Now, throw a crown on an actual burger, then you’ll get my attention… Pass the Tums.

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