In early January 2021, Burger King made public its reformed visual concept for the hamburgers restaurant brand. It includes a new logo icon together with a whole collection of visual brand features; they will appear everywhere identified with Burger King: restaurants (signage, interior design), menu boards, staff uniform, website and mobile app, packaging of meals, print marketing materials, etc. But as one looks at the ‘new’ logo, a feeling of familiarity with the image could instantly arise (e.g., among ages 25+): ‘have I not seen this logo before?’ Indeed the ‘new’ logo icon looks very much like the logo which prevailed from 1969 until its replacement in 1999. This perception invoked in consumers is fully intentional by the company and signals a return to older, original values of Burger King (parent company Restaurant Brands International, since 2014).
In the renewed logo, the name is sandwiched between two buns, horizontally, as in the logo from 1969 (updated in 1994). The upper slice of bun is now thicker than the lower, and the buns appear in a brighter orange-pink colour, but other than that the resemblance is striking, including in typeface and orientation of the brand name. The logo icon used in 2000-2020, on the other hand, was tilted, circled, with buns in shining yellow, brand title more conspicuous, and surrounded by a blue swish. It has seemingly given a more dynamic, youthful impression to the brand. Burger King clearly appears this time as going back to its roots, to something more traditional and solidified. The three logo signs are demonstrated in an article (online) of Tom Ravenscroft in DeZeen design magazine (12 January 2021) on the visual rebranding. Lisa Smith, designer and executive creative director at agency Jones Knowles Ritchie, who worked on the brand redesign, told Ravenscroft: “Our choice to remove the color blue was somewhat symbolic of Burger King’s recent removal of colors, flavors, and preservatives from artificial sources.”
The statement of Smith testifies to an action taken by Burger King to offer food based on more natural and healthy ingredients. Burger King also relishes its practice of broiling burgers on live flame (more healthy and tasty than frying burgers). Its burgers are best known by the flagship brand Whopper. The logo redesign is meant to support this move, particularly by removing artificially-looking components installed in the 1999 logo: the blue colour (company officials commented that there is no ‘blue’ in food), the circling swish that is foreign to Burger King and its values, and the shining yellow (buns). The visual design can be persuasive if indeed it follows a comprehensive programme to create more healthy food, which has to be communicated by additional means (e.g., on menus).
- In an interview at a conference of Columbia Business School (New-York), Fernando Machado, Global Chief Marketing Officer of Burger King, emphasises the priority he gives to aligning the actions of the brand with its messages, ensuring that they ‘walk the talk’, and even better, ‘walk before the talk’. In the context above, it implies that changes in food preparation practices have been implemented before the brand redesign.
The heritage of Burger King is associated with the original values: real, simple, delicious, confidence, and fun. The new visual brand design aims to give homage to these values, particularly confidence, simple and fun. Beyond the logo restoration, the visual brand signs will rely on a few dominant colours that are drawn from food ingredients of beef (brown), lettuce (green), and potato fries (beige). In addition, the colour red (e.g., it continues to be applied to the brand name title) links to the live flame used to grill or broil the burger. Lively imagery is showcased in tiles on background of bold and rich colours with high contrast between them. The new font typeface created is rounded, and some text appears even swirly; the animated typeface is named ‘Flame’ to be associated with round, bold and ‘yummi’ as well as with the live flame of grill. The new design is meant to look natural and be expressive; it should dispel the negative associations consumers have of fast food, ‘closing the gap’ between these associations and the ‘positive reality of our food story’ as argued by designer Lisa Smith (FastCompany, Lilly Smith, 7 January 2021).
The new design concept was chosen and developed with another drive in sight so as to make it more compatible with, and viewer-friendly to customers, in digital displays on screens of personal computers and mobile devices (smartphone or tablet). It should also look more clearly on screens of self-service ordering stations in restaurants, and from distance on menu boards inside the restaurant or at ‘drive-thru’ service counters outside the building. This consideration has become especially crucial during the Corona pandemic, when customers visit digital spaces (website, app, social media) more frequently as well as picking-up orders from outside the premises at drive-thru facilities (Business Insider, 7 January 2021).
Burger King adopted the concept of Flat Design, which prioritizes two-dimensional illustrations, plain backgrounds (no detail, no depth), bright colours, and limiting the “noise created by too many visual details and textures” (see Stephen Moore, Marker [by Medium.com], 18 January 2021). It is argued that the flat design is simple, efficient to implement, and less confounding when viewed on a screen. It can especially help to remove visual distractions and lower the level of visual (feature) complexity of pictorial images.
The redesigned brand aims to refer to its genuine values. But has Burger King been so much healthier in earlier decades? Fast food restaurants, particularly for burgers, persistently struggle, at least since 2000, to be perceived as healthy and nourishing. It may be recalled that McDonald’s has gone through a ‘green’ transformation about ten years ago. This makes the move of Burger King look a bit belated. The efforts of these restaurant chains to improve the healthiness of their food, and reduce potential harm (e.g., from artificial additives, salt and sugar) are positive and commendable, but they can go only so far in convincing consumers that the chains’ food is truly ‘green and healthy’ while maintaining the original pleasures anticipated from their offerings. Burger King will have to continue and prove that its efforts in this regard are authentic and consistent; thence, the redesigned logo, and other visual branding elements, will more likely become accepted as believable and trustworthy.
It is not clear as yet how well the visual brand re-design will support associations of more natural and healthy food, and this may take more effort to deliver forward to consumers. However, the concept and specific features of the visual design can well succeed in supporting and enhancing some of the original values of Burger King. For instance, the Flat Design can corroborate its being simple and instilling confidence; the logo design with the renewed horizontal orientation of the Burger King sandwich may also increase confidence and stability. The colours and the rounded, sometimes swirly, typeface will communicate more fun. The brand may have given up on an association of greater dynamics, but it has put forward again values that the company sees as more important and genuine to its identity. Hopefully for Burger King, the brand has found a new promising path to a better future. Bon Appetite! (but keep an eye on your health).