Bacon seems to be all the rage as of late. Last year, Denny’s unleashed Baconalia, a greasy feast for diehard bacon foodies that featured menu items such as bacon pancakes and a BLT with eight (yes, eight) strips of bacon. The Krispy Kreme bacon cheeseburger, a burger topped with bacon and sandwiched in between two Krispy Kreme donuts, made the rounds at state fairs all over the country last summer (and clogged a good amount of arteries in the process.) Now, Burger King is jumping on the bacon wagon with its new summer 2012 menu. The menu features a bacon sundae: vanilla soft serve complete with fudge, caramel, bacon crumbles and topped with a piece of bacon.
What Will Bacon Do for Branding?
A bacon sundae may taste sweet (it should; it contains 61 grams of sugar), but will this new sundae sweeten up Burger King’s branding efforts?
I’m going to say no. And here’s why:
Good branding is essential for every company, and right now it’s especially necessary for Burger King. Last year, Wendy’s overthrew Burger King to become the country’s second largest hamburger chain.
Faced with sliding sales, Burger King underwent the biggest menu expansion in its history. In April 2012, it added new food items such as smoothies, frappes, snack wraps, and salads.
With these new foods, Burger King is attempting to rebill itself as not just a flame-broiled-burger retailer but a purveyor of “healthy” options. Take a look at some of the menu items:
By terming these salads “garden fresh,” Burger King is trying to appeal to health-conscious people who want to eat fresh, nutritionally valuable vegetables.
Here’s how Burger King describes its strawberry-banana smoothie:
Notice the words “real fruit,” “low-fat,” and “fresh.” Again, this appeals to people who want to eat real produce, not sickeningly saccharine fruit juices disguised as smoothies.
Burger King has even come out with new commercials featuring David Beckham to market these smoothies. If a fit and ripped professional soccer player concocting Burger King smoothies doesn’t make you associate the fruity drinks with health and nutrition, I don’t know what will.
The burger chain is also charming vegetarians (who are typically deemed healthy eaters) by posting this on its Facebook page:
Notice that the veggies on the burger are labeled (what else?) “fresh.”
It’s Bigger than Bacon
Burger King has devoted a lot of time and resources into this new menu and the rebranding effort it represents. The bacon sundae is going to undo the majority of this. How? The bacon sundae isn’t just a sundae. It’s a microcosm of the Burger King brand. Bacon is not associated with health; thus, by releasing a bacon sundae, the Burger King brand becomes dissociated from health. I don’t eat fast food, but if I was out with a friend who needed to satisfy a Burger King craving, I would be willing to eat at Burger King and take advantage of these healthy options. I would be less likely to condemn Burger King because, hey, at least they have healthy options, and they try to promote them.
But, now that Burger King is going on a nation-wide, bacon-sundae campaign, the image of the chain has changed in my mind. I never considered the brand to be the picture of health, but I gave Burger King props for marketing some decently nutritious foods. Post-bacon sundae release, Burger King is once again unhealthy. Sure, they didn’t take the healthy options away, but their marketing efforts will shift from healthy (salads, smoothies, smaller portion snack wraps) to unhealthy (ice cream with bacon topped with more bacon).
Also, this shift is very confusing. From April to June, Burger King seemed to be slowly creeping towards a healthier path. But, now it’s promoting fatty, greasy, sugary bacon sundaes. Is it a chain that offers healthy options? Or, is it just a chain that needs to be avoided like the bubonic plague if a person has any concern for his or her cardiovascular system? Branding needs to be consistent, not perplexing.
Reading comments on various news articles about Burger King’s new bacon sundae makes me think the new menu item won’t receive a kind verdict in the court of public opinion. One article on Yahoo! News currently has gathered almost 1,900 comments in less than 24 hours, virtually all of which express disbelief, disgust, or distaste (or all of the above) for the sundae. Although, the old adage is “any press is good press,” so I guess only time and sales will determine whether the sundae is a success.
There is some good news for Burger King amidst this storm of negative reactions. These comments can be a great resource for the chain when it needs ideas for a new menu revision.
A bacon espresso?! Maybe Burger King can try rebranding itself as a burger and bacon coffee shop if the sundae falls flat.