The Burger King Advertising Flop You've Probably Never Heard Of

Many fast food chains have a mascot. McDonald's has Ronald McDonald – at least they did up until 2016 for reasons involving recent "clown sightings" and that good ol' Ronnie might scare kids more than encourage them to eat hamburgers (via NBC News). Wendy's has the red-haired girl with pigtails, and KFC had Norm MacDonald as Colonel Sanders (via YouTube). As for Burger King, their mascot choice was — and you'll want to be sitting down when you hear this — a king.

The Burger King, as he is known, has been around for longer than you might have expected. There has been a similar character promoting Burger King's flame-broiled burgers since the 1970s, reports CBR, but it was only around the early 2000s that the big-headed, animatronic-looking baron of beef we know today leaped into the hearts, minds, and occasional nightmare of the American public.

Responses to the King weren't exactly the royal welcome the marketing think-tank at Burger King was expecting. Many viewed the King as creepy or weird. PopSugar even seemed to celebrate the news that the good King had been "dethroned" as of 2022. It seemed that despite doing everything they could to make the King popular — including releasing a full-fledged Xbox 360 game featuring the monarch of meat (via NME) — mascots weren't exactly Burger King's specialty. There was, however, a not-so-royal "mascot" that Burger King tried to woo the public with way back in the mid-1980s, And his name was Herb.

Where was Herb?

"Who was Herb?" This was the question Burger King asked America. One of the only pieces of information that the public knew about this elusive Herb character was that he had never eaten at the chain. America had to figure out who he was and if they spotted him, they'd be handsomely rewarded.

As Mental Floss reports, customers were on the lookout for a man in outdated geeky clothes and thick-rimmed glasses, played by actor Jon Menick. If they could spot this bizarre character roaming their Burger King location, they'd be eligible to walk away with a few thousand dollars — or even a million if they were lucky. While there were some minor controversies related to the search for Herb, such as one young man from Alabama spotting Herb but not receiving the cash prize due to a minimum age loophole, eventually a man by the name of Christopher Kelly walked away with the million-dollar prize (via UPI).

Despite doing everything they could to make Herb the most popular man in America, even including him as a guest on WrestleMania (via Mental Floss), Herb didn't stick around. People eventually lost interest in who Herb was after a while and, besides, a man named Herb didn't really get anyone craving a Whopper. The Chicago Tribune reported that in 1986, Burger King abandoned the idea altogether. Herb wasn't the first marketing stunt Burger King pulled that fell on its face, and it wouldn't be the last.