Just when you thought it was safe to eat at McDonald’s in peace, the fast food giant has introduced a revamped version of its Hamburglar character – with a “chiseled jaw” and “just the right amount of stubble,” no less – along with its limited edition Sirloin Third Pound Burgers. Public (and media) opinion on the new Hamburglar is mixed — from “hot suburban dad” and, “Help, I have a crush on the Hamburglar” to “a dad who picked the lamest costume at Party City” — but what do marketers think?
The brand has posted tons of social content, including a wanted ad for the new Hamburglar, who, naturally, then took over McDonald’s Twitter account with the hashtag #RobbleRobble, which has since been used about 1500 times overall, per Topsy. And McDonald’s has been asking its 2.8 million followers for help finding him, with the burger bandit even hopping over to Snapchat when things got a little too heated on Twitter.
Is McDonald’s new asset a stroke of genius or a brand misstep? We asked a dozen marketing experts and they’re divided.
Regardless of where they stand in the Great Hamburglar Debate, many point to an aura of mystique surrounding this new Hamburglar and ask who McDonald’s is targeting with it, where the brand will go with it, and whether the brand will revive any of its other characters.
Their opinions follow in full.
The New Hamburglar: A Stroke Of Marketing Genius
Nic Mayne, founder and principal, Mayne Marketing
While “all press is good press” is a bit of a stretch, I think a variation of that applies here.
Regardless of how cheesy the costume or character itself may be, or how awkward the videos are, people are talking and that puts the brand in front of people.
Isn’t that what marketing is all about?
Michael Goldrich, vice president of digital marketing and e-commerce, Dolce Hotels
It is genius for the following reasons:
- We are talking about McDonald’s.
- They’ve updated a past staple of the company. It gets people to think how else is McDonald’s evolving. Maybe their menu also has improved and is possibly more healthy.
- It also reflects dad and his naughty side. Stereotypically, moms want the kids to eat healthy. Going for fast food and feeding kids junk food is going against mom and breaking the healthy eating rules. In essence the dad is the Hamburglar in this scenario.
Apryl DeLancey, president, Social Age Media
I’d say it’s genius but not likely in the way they meant it. That is, unless they intended to create a character that people would find hot, find creepy and debate about.
One has to wonder if they’ll roll out more “live” characters.
It’s definitely an interesting change.
Brynn Winegard, principal, Winegard & Company
The new Hamburglar campaign has people everywhere wondering what McDonald’s had in mind launching this new campaign…
Which is what makes it effective.
It’s just weird and eyebrow raising enough to cut through the proverbial clutter and get people talking – and, of course, more importantly – tweeting about it.
Today, the only marketing communications worth having is marketing that is disseminated via word of mouth (WOM), peer-to-peer (P2P), because it allows for two critical ingredients to information transfer:
- Source credibility: You trust your friends and the people you follow on Twitter.
- Message authenticity: You don’t doubt that they mean what they are saying about the campaign.
P2P WOM is the most important and indigenous to none other than the millennials.
Last year, 84 percent of people who had children in North America were millennials – the same folks that were raised on McDonald’s, Ronald McDonald, Kids Happy Meals and the original Hamburglar. These cradle-to-grave consumers might not be loyalists, but they are certainly likely to be heading back to a McDonald’s in the coming years – this time at the behest of their own children!
Millennials don’t wield as much economic power as their parents (the Boomers), but they take double-income families as a must, care a lot about careers and income and know how to use mobile technology to tweet, talk and message (something many of their parents are missing).
What more impactful time, therefore, for McDonald’s to launch a “questionable” social media campaign that will get this young, technologically enabled, mobile-device-addicted generation talking and tweeting to one another…? In fact, it’s not only intelligently crafted, and we can assume designed to be such, it’s likely evidence of what we are going to see more of in the future from McDonald’s and any brand that is looking to drive awareness and P2P WOM advertising.
Oh, and if the social media campaigns raise enough eyebrows, “interest,” or at least inquiry to get more than the millennials talking – more (brand) power to them.
Carly Fauth, head of marketing, Money Crashers
Is this a stroke of marketing genius? It depends upon who you ask. In the media, it’s been panned as being outdated. But, it’s received a great reaction on social media, especially amongst younger folks.
I like it – he is younger and more hip than before, and he also comes with a story created by McDonald’s that he has been a Dad living in the suburbs for the past 10 years or so.
It isn’t a marketing fail. At the very least, it’s got people talking about McDonald’s more.
It goes back to the marketing adage that any press is good press. Sales have fallen rather significantly for McDonald’s recently, especially in the younger demographic. Anything it can do to get folks to talk more about their business is a shrewd move.
Bill Fish, president, ReputationManagement.com
The new Hamburglar is complete genius. I love reading about it, people find him creepy, people say it reminds them of “50 Shades of Grey”, people wonder who in the world McDonald’s is marketing to with this character?
What is so great thus far is how vague everything is. The short videos released on Twitter are just bizarre, taking calls from his wife while hiding out at McDonald’s?
What I really hope is that they let it play out for a long time leaving everyone wondering exactly their strategy is with the Hamburglar. Right now, the interest is because people don’t grasp exactly what McDonald’s is trying to do.
For such a large company, it’s a strange marketing technique, but it’s great. I mean, Time Magazine did a piece on essentially what is a guy wearing a Lone Ranger mask and a funny hat.
The campaign obviously wasn’t costly, and it’s getting people talking, and it’s also subliminally getting people to think about their youth and the original Hamburglar, and probably time they spent at McDonald’s. I’m excited to see where they take it.
The New Hamburglar: A Marketing Failure
Megan Hartman, head of strategy, Red Peak Youth
The Hamburglar is a marketing fail because McDonald’s missed an opportunity to bring the original Hamburglar back.
McDonald’s would have been better suited playing up the nostalgia of the original Hamburglar rather than reinventing him.
Ian Fitzpatrick, chief strategy officer, Almighty
The re-introduction of the Hamburger is such an odd moment of meh from a brand that’s doing so many other things well. However fleetingly tumblr-able he might be, he feels oddly under-produced and thrown-together. The brand is doing so much right at the moment — streamlining its drive-thru menu, limiting new product introductions — that I’m not sure where he fits in to the story of where McDonald’s is headed (nor was he ever really all that integral to the brand’s past). Until someone can explain how he improves the experience of, or enthusiasm for, being a McDonald’s customer, he just feels tacked-on.
Guy Martin Smalley, founder, Bowery Creative
I’m not lovin’ it.
It’s safe to say that the new Hamburglar is a disaster. Children love animation, and 30- to 40-year-olds love nostalgia — this seems almost engineered to be as unappealing as possible to their main demographic.
The question becomes: What next? This is a great opportunity for McDonald’s to show how nimble they are. A quick “you spoke – we listened” campaign could do wonders for them here. But perhaps that was the plan all along…
Jim Angleton, president, Aegis
The Hamburglar will be another failure for McDonald’s.
McDonald’s appears to be grasping for recognition, to [reinvent] itself, and to take into consideration previous food/menu issues, earnings, and social media buzz.
When you play defense marketing, it shows.
Prediction: Hamburglar is perceived as lame and a bore to youth and a disconnect with their parents.
LJ Jones, senior analyst, Partner Fusion
The Hamburglar at first appears to be a win but ultimately it’s a fail. Let me explain:
The Hamburglar looks like a win because it’s getting us talking about McDonald’s. Bloggers are blogging, Twitter is tweeting, articles are being written. There is a lot of buzz. But the ultimate measure of success is whether it increases sales.
Just because people are buzzing about something doesn’t mean that people are willing to buy. Take for example, William Hung. Hung was a contestant on “American Idol”. Everyone was buzzing about him. Bloggers blogged, Twitter tweeted. But did anyone buy his album? No. Buzz does not equal sales.
McDonald’s problems are far greater than the buzz about an old Happy Meal character can solve. Their business model is struggling and the Hamburglar won’t save it.
The New Hamburglar: A Genius Failure
Paul Matthews, account manager, Arbor Bay Marketing
The Hamburglar is successful – if the point is to build up a different face for the brand of McDonald’s. He is way better than a creepy white-painted-face clown with obnoxious red hair.
At least with the Hamburglar we can see that he has a face and isn’t going to potentially eat us like that creepy clown does in Stephen King’s “It.” Clowns get a bad rap in the current social stratosphere, but a handsome guy in a mask…it works.
But is burglary something that is a positive image? McDonald’s may get backlash about the thievery aspect of the character if they dwell on him too much.
What’s your take on the new Hamburglar?