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How Burger King pulled off the year’s most successful branding campaign

Burger King just wanted to persuade customers to try its newly fresh ingredients. Instead, working with the creative agency Jones Knowles Ritchie, it got an entire brand makeover.

How Burger King pulled off the year’s most successful branding campaign

Burger King was on a mission in 2020 to change its customer’s perception of its food. The quick serve franchise removed artificial ingredients and preservatives from its menu. But people still thought it was unhealthy junk food.

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So Burger King reached out to Jones Knowles Ritchie, a creative brand communications agency. Initially, it didn’t have rebranding in mind. It wanted to create a campaign to showcase its new claims like, “a hundred percent real” or “no artificial ingredients.” But Jones Knowles Ritchie convinced Burger King that it needed to change consumers’ attitudes around the brand itself, so they would trust the claims.

[Photo: Burger King]

This sparked an 18-month design and strategy collaboration between Jones Knowles Ritchie Executive Creative Director Lisa Smith and her team with Burger King’s in-house design team lead by former Global Head of Design Rapha Abreu, who is now global vice president of design at Coca-Cola. Together, they conceived new branding that features a retro logo and mouth-watering colors that conjure up the satisfaction of biting into a big, juicy burger.

[Photo: Burger King]
Burger King has many locations and identities around the world, but the brand isn’t instantly recognizable unless it explicitly says Burger King. The design collaborators wanted to overcome the inconsistency to create a unified identity and experience. “It’s Burger King – it shouldn’t have to say Burger King,” Smith says.

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[Photo: Burger King]
“Have it your way,” has been Burger King’s slogan for decades. A reiteration of the classic phrase gave the strategy of the redesign’s direction. “We came up with the core creative idea, which was, ‘Your way, way better,'” Smith says. This foundation allowed the design team to transform the brand’s brick-and-mortar store signage and employee uniforms, add recyclable or reusable packaging, and simplify the brand’s image for digital platforms. “We wanted to use design to help build distinction for the Burger King brand, who we are, and what we value,” Chief Marketing Officer of Burger King North America Ellie Doty says. “We also wanted to get people to crave our food; its flame-grilling and hand-breading perfection and above all, its taste.”

[Image: Burger King]
The new logo mimics the 1969 and 1994 versions of the Burger King logo, which feature Burger King’s name sandwiched between two buns. “It was never deliberately intended to be a homage to the past. It was meant to take the best things that felt like Burger King,” Smith says. The design team omitted the blue curve that has circled the hamburger logo since 1999. “We knew that off the bat, the logo needed to be redesigned – it was looking very dated. And it wasn’t helping to communicate real, delicious, simple, warm food – it kind of contradicted all of what we want to convey,” says Abreu, Burger King’s former head of design.

[Photo: Burger King]
The design team used colors from the Whopper within the rebrand like flaming orange, fiery red, barbecue brown, crunchy green, and melty yellow. “The selected colors are unapologetically rich and bold, inspired by our iconic flame grilling process and fresh ingredients,” Doty says. These colors combined with Burger King’s proprietary font, Flame, to adorn its new packaging materials with simple adjectives to describe the food.

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Burger King’s rebranding efforts were a huge success, according to the company. The fast-food underdog out-performed McDonald’s by 66% with consumer purchase intent. Customer visitation intent increased by 39%, and Burger King received 1.1 billion impressions in the first five days of the rebrand. The company’s stock rose by 7.8%. “The Burger King brand has evolved in the past 20+ years as evidenced by our commitment to real food and ingredients,” Doty says. “The new design seamlessly pays homage to the brand’s heritage while reflecting the changes in our world and our brand with a refined design that’s confident, simple, and fun.”

See more from Fast Company’s 2021 Innovation by Design Awards. Our new book, Fast Company Innovation by Design: Creative Ideas That Transform the Way We Live and Work (Abrams, 2021), is on sale now.

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