Selling greasy grub to the insatiable American appetite doesn’t usually present too much of a problem: those hungry for cheap, nutrition-free cuisine are willing to walk up and drive through in droves, cramming their maws full of fatty favourites such as The Whopper and The Triple Bacon Classic. However, an unqualified fast food
success is trickier to attain than you’d imagine.. Burger giant McDonald’s, for instance, hasn’t had a truly successful addition to its product line since the introduction of Chicken McNuggets way back in 1983. Then there are times when a company’s promotional machine not only stalls, but hurtles off the highway in flames.
1. THE HULABURGER
In 1963, McDonald’s head man Ray Kroc decided to come up with a beefless burger for his Catholic customers to eat on Fridays. He really should have been thinking of the Filet o’ Fish ( which came later ) but, instead, he put a slice of grilled pineapple on a hamburger bun. He had tried these at home and really liked them. Nobody else did. People wiggled their hips away from the Hulaburger in record time, and it died a quick death, probably the greatest McFailure of all time.
If it seems that we’re picking on McDonald’s, well, you’re right – we are. The operative word here is “fast” food: who wants to wait ten minutes for something that tastes like a paper plate with sauce on it to come out of the oven? Planning was so poor here that a full-sized pie wouldn’t even fit through a drive-thru window. “When the moon hits your eye like a McPizza pie, dat’s
3. BURGER KING’S “HERB” CAMPAIGN
There’s a guy named Herb. He has no relevancy to you, we’re only going to give you a loose description of him, and there’s absolutely no incentive for you to track him down. Oh, and he digs Burger King. If this is sounding like vintage Kafka to you, you might have an inkling why Joe Average failed to appreciate the manifold mysteries of Herb. Herb finally revealed himself as one of Wrestlemania II’s celebrity guests. The roar of apathy was deafening.
4. THE BURGER KING and HIS PISSANT FRIENDS
Even McDonald Land had to implement a round of lay-offs, sending Mayor McCheese, Captain Crook, and the burger-headed cop out to pasture, but Burger King’s cast of ultra-lame mascots never even got off the ground. Who remembers the Duke of Doubt, Sir Shakes-a-Lot, and the Wizard of Fries? The answer is absolutely no one. Presumably even their creators have repressed them from memory. The Burger King himself would eventually re-appear in commercials, this time sporting an eerie, glaze-eyed plastic head. His intentions appeared to have shifted from the selling of burgers to the taking of human life.
5. THE TACO BELL BEEFER
After exhorting its customers to “Think Outside The Bun,” everybody’s favourite faux-clay adobe has a lot of nerve wrapping up a cheeseburger in a tortilla. The Bell Beefer proved to be about as popular as Montezuma’s Revenge. Taco Bell was also responsible for an elaborate April Fool’s joke in which they bought a full-page ad in the New York Times and claimed to have purchased the Liberty Bell, which would now be renamed The Taco Liberty Bell. Early colonial minutemen were incensed
and rioted in the streets.
6. KITCHEN FRESH CHICKEN
We’re all supposed to forget the word “fried,” don’t you see? Too bad we didn’t play along. KFC deserves all those urban legends about beakless, boneless birds if they try to pull this kind of crap. Oh, and in the secret recipe’s eleven herbs and spices, do M, S, and G count for three? Kitchen Fresh Chicken was not only stupid, it was a lie: some menu items such as Hot Wings came frozen. I don’t know if the Colonel is rolling over in his grave or not, but they’ve got him breakdancing in the commercial.
7. LONG JOHN SILVER’S LANGOSTINO LOBSTER
A langostino isn’t a lobster. It’s a spidery-legged relative of the hermit crab. Passing it off as lobster is like referring to a particular piece of meat as “cat cow.” I guess one can expect no better from a cutthroat pirate – just because he’s opened
up a fish and chip business doesn’t mean he’s gone completely straight.
8. THE STUMPING OF KENNY
If you read the menu at Kenny Rogers Roasters, it says that The Gambler set up this chain of eateries to guarantee himself good home cooking no matter where he travelled. His remarks seem suspect when one realizes that, on a November 1997 episode of Late Night with Conan O’Brien, a blindfolded Kenny Rogers failed to identify his own chicken, instead picking charred fowl prepared by the NBC commisary. “You got to know when to hold ’em. Know when to lend your name to something you don’t give a crap about…”
9. “JACK IN THE BOX” BECOMES “MONTEREY JACK’S”
1993 saw some major image challenges for this American burger chain. Four people were dead from E.coli poisoning in Seattle, and the happy Jack In The Box was starting to look a lot like death itself. A quick cosmetic name change just resulted in confusion. They went back to the Jack before you could say “loss of market share.”
10. LOST IN McTRANSLATION
Who would have thought that “Finger Lickin’ Good” becomes “Eat Your Fingers Off” in Chinese? A Domino’s Pizza commerical in Guatemala wins the insensitivity award: “We realize that you work like blacks so naturally you will eat like cannibals.”
Honourable mentions must go to Wendy’s, for their consistent inability to implement a breakfast menu ( they also fired “Where’s The Beef?” lady Clara Peller after she did a Prego commercial ) and Carl’s Jr., for their soft core porn ad campaign featuring a purring Paris Hilton lathering up a car, and, for the record, what does Popeye have to do with chicken, anyway? He’s a sailor, man!
That million dollar promotions can fall flat should come as no surprise. The flashiest distractions in the world can’t help a bad idea from being identified as just that – a bad idea. Fries and lies, meat and deceit, no matter how fast the food is, failure will catch up eventually.