Here's Why Burger King Temporarily Retired Its Mascot

Mascots are a recognizable connection between consumers and brand identity for fast food chains. There is a clown for McDonald's, the Wendy character is the face of Wendy's, Colonel Sanders represents KFC, and cows ironically encourage us to go to Chick-fil-A for our food. In that same vein, who else would you make the mascot of Burger King then, well, the Burger King himself? Given how fitting his title is, some may scratch their heads when they remember that the King retired more than a decade ago. For others, the reason for this development may seem obvious.

According to Comic Book Resources, Burger King has used that company name since the '50s, and their mascot naturally evolved from there. By the '70s, the monarch was all over television screens, peddling his beef in the fast food joint's many short ads. Back then, he was animated, and yet, despite his cartoonish nature, he was a fairly realistic-looking guy.

Then, the King graciously stepped aside for a decade or two for only a sabbatical. While he was away, per A Little Bit Human, Burger King (the restaurant) focused on dissing their biggest competitor, McDonald's, and engineered an early ARG (augmented reality game) manhunt for some guy named Herb (who apparently was the only person never to taste a Whopper before). There was also a subservient chicken who wanted you to "Have It Your Way" when you ordered a chicken sandwich. But what about the actual Burger King?

Burger King was too creepy

The Burger King brand then decided to invite the real Burger King back to his throne. This time, however, he would make the jump to live action. In 2004, a commercial aired showing a real person dressed up like a monarch sitting beside someone's bed and offering them breakfast (via Comic Book Resources). This would set the tone for the King's new vibe.

There's one more super noticeable and unsettling aspect of the Burger King's new look in his live-action debut: The head isn't the actor's. Instead, it's a comically-oversized mascot headpiece. This version only stuck around for roughly seven years. In 2011, the King retired, per Forbes. Alex Maccedo, senior vice president of marketing at the time, assured the public, "There are no plans to bring the King back anytime soon." Josh Koza, the then-chief financial officer of Burger King, put it more bluntly, explaining, "We got rid of the creepy king character that tended to scare away women and children."

Unfortunately, that didn't last. In 2015, the monarch escorted Floyd Mayweather to a boxing match (via A Little Bit Human).In 2018, the King showed up again in "person" at the Belmont Stakes Racing Festival, per Paulick Report. He's even been featured on social media as recently as 2020, according to PennLive. These days, you can't be too surprised if you encounter the Burger King in the wild — although we won't blame you if you're a little creeped out.