How A Helium Tank Inspired The Design Of Burger King's Mascot

Find him charming, annoying, or even a little creepy, Burger King's mascot continues to promote the Home of the Whopper. According to Mental Floss, the King mascot as we know him has only been around for 18 of the burger chain's 69-year history. However, Burger King has been represented by a "king" mascot for much longer. Slate describes how in the 1970s, the restaurant used performers wearing royalty costumes to entertain customers with magic tricks. 

During the decades between the costumed performers and the current large-headed King, other mascots were used, including Herb, played by actor Jon Menick in 1985 (per Mental Floss). But none stuck around as the King has for nearly two decades. Although Burger King did temporarily retire him from about 2011 to 2015 because, as Josh Koza, the then-chief financial officer of Burger King, said he was "creepy" and deterred women and children. However, the King was brought back in 2015 with an appearance at a boxing match, followed by a visit to another sporting event and in social media postings.

An unusual inspiration

What has made Burger King's King mascot somewhat controversial (and stand out among mascots) is his oversized head. So, where did the idea come from for the King's unusual look? The last thing you might have guessed is a helium tank, but that's where an executive with Burger King's ad agency found his inspiration (via Slate). The story goes that an executive with Crispin Porter + Bogusky was searching eBay for ideas when they saw one of the helium tanks used by Burger King in the 1970s for balloons. Those tanks, per Mental Floss, had a plastic king head on them. 

On its website, Legacy Effects discusses how it used a balloon pump to create the King mascot in 2004 and continues to update it as needed. According to Slate, the King's first appearance was in a commercial called "Wake Up With the King," promoting Burger King's breakfast menu. In the commercial, a man wakes up next to the King in bed, who then hands him a Double Croissan'wich. The two then end up laughing. 

With his jewels, crown, robe (and, yes, comically large head), the King is unforgettable — and that's exactly what Burger King wants.