Fast food companies like KFC, McDonald's, and Burger King have all brought back their mascots in a big way.
KFC resurrected Colonel Sanders, the brand's founder and mascot, after a 21-year hiatus. McDonald's has revamped the "Hamburglar" character after more than a decade. And Burger King reportedly paid $1 million to get its mascot in Floyd Mayweather's entourage.
There's an unsettling reason behind why companies are using the mascots, writes Claire Suddath at Bloomberg Business.
"How do you advertise enormous hamburgers and buckets of fried chicken when that's just going to remind people that they're not supposed to eat enormous hamburgers and buckets of fried chicken?" Suddath asks. "You get a funny mascot to do it for you."
Fast food companies are grappling with the perception that their products are unhealthy and dangerous. Classic fare like burgers, fries, and soda are being blamed for the global obesity epidemic, and consumers increasingly say they want fresh, healthy options.
The companies have also been criticized for marketing to children and irresponsibly selling high-calorie meals and sodas.
While McDonald's is still the most-visited fast food chain among millennials, Morgan Stanley says many young people are embarrassed to admit they eat there.
Fast food brands are trying to use the mascots to get people to connect with the brand on a more personal level.
And they're spending a lot of money to do it.
KFC hired Saturday Night Live alumnus Darrell Hammond to create a funny version of Colonel Sanders, while Burger King's mascot just popped up at the Belmont Stakes.
These maneuvers could make customers feel that the brands are funny and non-threatening, rather than dangerous.
Using a fictional character also helps these companies avoid direct criticism, such as when McDonald's tried to convince parents its food was healthy.
It's unclear whether the fast food mascots will be able to resurrect declining sales in the industry.Sponsored by Adobe
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