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Burger King To Retire 'King' Mascot For Burger-Based Marketing

By Annie Gasparro Of DOW JONES NEWSWIRES NEW YORK -(Dow Jones)- Burger King is straying from its King mascot in order to focus on its burgers themselves in a new advertising campaign that launches Saturday. The move is part of Burger King's effort to reinvent itself since it was bought by a private-equity firm last year. While the majestic mascot had been around a while, the King wasn't resonating enough with customers to satisfy Burger King in this tough economic and competitive environment. "We did quite a bit of extensive research, and time and time again people said the differentiator that makes them love Burger King is the quality of our food," a spokesman said. "We are a food company, so we are going to take a food-centric marketing." Burger King's same-store sales have been on the decline in recent quarters, while McDonald's Corp.'s (MCD) rose 4.5% in the U.S. in the second quarter and Wendy's Co.'s (WEN) were up 2.3% in North America for the second quarter. While Burger King had hoped that a recent revamp of the King would be a hit with its target audience--men in their early 20s--recent commercials featuring the character gave off a slightly creepy vibe instead, with the royal rascal sneaking in to people's beds and peering through windows. The new approach, leaving out the King, is the restaurant's first new marketing effort since it switched advertising agencies to Dentsu Inc.'s (4324.TO) McGarryBowen in July, replacing MDC Partners Inc.'s (MDCA) Crispin Porter + Bogusky. The switch also comes as fast-food chains are under pressure to nix their cartoonish mascots, in light of a growing childhood-obesity problem in the U.S. McDonald's has received a lot of flak over its Ronald McDonald character lately. While the company has added healthier offerings to its children's meals and launched promotions encouraging children to be active, McDonald's said it isn't retiring Ronald. McDonald's also reiterated that, for years, Ronald hasn't been portrayed as eating or promoting food, going along with the theory that the food is selling the food, not the mascot. -By Annie Gasparro, Dow Jones Newswires; 212-416-2244; annie.gasparro@dowjones.com

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