Round Table Discussion: Wrapping Our Brains Around McDonald’s Hamburglar Reboot

An ongoing series that looks at marketing and branding efforts from a swarm of different creative perspectives.

There once was a little orange-haired fellow in a black Zorro mask who specialized in petty theft. More specifically: Theft of hamburgers. Even more specifically: McDonald’s hamburgers.

We’re talking about the Hamburglar, everyone’s favorite gibberish-spewing criminal. Many of us grew up on the Hamburglar. He was a staple of McDonald’s 70s and 80s TV spots like this one…

And then he was gone. Maybe he was rehabilitated. Or maybe he saw Super Size Me and decided to lay off the McMeat. Whatever the case, like all great brand icons, the Hamburglar faded into our collective memory…

But now he’s back! In our modern age of reboots and remakes, it shouldn’t be surprising the Hamburglar recently made a return. What is surprising is the new form he’s taken. He’s much older and more human. Online reaction to the new Hamburglar has been pretty hilarious.

Digging Into Our (Un)Happy Thoughts on the New Hamburglar

We asked our team to share their thoughts on this new version of The Hamburglar. Here’s what they had to say…

Burglarizing My Childhood Memories

The Blob (AKA Bob)

So this is the new look of the Hamburglar?

The first thing that popped into my mind was the question, “Why?”

Then the next thing that popped into my head was, “No really, I want to know why? Why did they do this? It just isn’t right. It just… isn’t right. I want my childhood back.”

The Hamburglar of my youth was a cute, comical, cartoony little fella who had the unfortunate impediment of only being able to say “Rabble Rabble Rabble”. Sure, he would never be asked to give a TED Talk, but his wacky shenanigans in trying to steal those deliciously bad-for-you burgers always made me smile.

And now…

Now they want to make him into a real life character that looks more like a masked pervert who wants to eat YOUR FOOD!

He quite possibly could be more disturbing than the Creepy Plastic Burger King. In fact, if I had to choose between waking up and seeing Creepy Burger King guy staring at me with those non-blinking eyes while laying in bed with me (who can forget THAT horrifying commercial) or seeing the new Hamburglar peering through my window, I would probably choose…

…well, I’d choose neither actually. I would probably break through the wall Wile E. Coyote style and run for my damn life.

The new Hamburglar does not have the happy fun feel of the original one AT ALL!!!

What it does remind me of is:

1) A man who owns a van. A scary van. A van that your parents tell you to run from if you should ever see it.

2) Someone who has decided to dress like The Green Hornet for Halloween, but they have VERY little money to put together the costume (and they are CLEARLY insane).

3) If Frank Miller decided to create a sequel to Will Eisner’s “The Spirit”, but THIS time you’ll hear lines like:

“My hamburger, I can not deny her. My hamburger screams. She is my mother. She is my lover, and I am her Hamburglar.”

What it does NOT make me want to do is buy a hamburger at all.

So I say this is both a complete Marketing FAIL and I want McDonald’s to personally write to me and apologize for ruining my childhood memories of the happy lil’ Hamburglar.

Grimacing at McDonald’s Marketing Future

Bigfoot (AKA Shad):

I’ll ask the one question no one in the McDonald’s boardroom or on the marketing team behind this effort seems to have asked: Why? The answer to that essential question completely eludes me.

With a gulp of fear, I’ll then ask my follow-up question: Sweet mother of mercy, what are these animals going to do to Grimace?

We All Have a Hamburglar Inside of Us

Godzilla (AKA Patrick):

A bit of nostalgia…

Ah, the Hamburglar. I have fond memories of that strange character. I’m kidding. I remember the cartoon version of the wacky, meat-stealing felon we look at curiously today. The origins of this character seem like a lifetime ago. Some might say that Ronald’s marketing of that time period had a singular purpose—to make their fast food appeal to kids. If you want children to crave your food, you have to market to them. And what better way (in the fast food biz) than to create silly cartoon characters.

The here and now…

It’s no surprise that these marketing tactics don’t fly well with our generation today. Our culture has been evolving into something more healthy. But the health-conscious humans who grew up in the age of fast-food cartoons are now the parents of children, and they don’t want them eating the yellow arches. It’s no surprise that McD’s feels a need to upgrade the patty thief. And so we get a grown up Hamburglar.

Just an opinion…

So how do I personally feel about the new Hamburglar? I guess I don’t particularly like the look they’ve given him. I’m not fond of the mashup between the old cartoon character and the new trendy jailbird. The articles already written about the change aren’t too far off the mark, in my opinion. He’s a little bit creepy or very cheesy, depending on how you look at it.

It could have been better…

They could have alluded to the original character without showing the character. This would have allowed them to be more playful with the whole Hamburglar marketing campaign. Instead of a defined character—make anyone the Hamburglar. It could be the dad cooking over the grill, similar to the teaser spot. It could be your buddy at a party stealing more than his share at the food table. It could be your wife or girlfriend, stealing your burger while you’re watching a movie.

In my “wish it would have happened differently” universe, I envision spots that never really show the Hamburglar’s face. Tell the story how we all have a Hamburglar inside of us. Hint at the nostalgia, but don’t show a character. This, in my opinion, would have opened up a world of possibilities.