Deconstructing Ads: Why Burger King’s Breakfast Muffin Sandwich Ad Is Criminal

In this post, I’ll deconstruct Burger King’s “Breakfast Muffin Sandwich” ad, exploring why it fails to persuade, and how you can avoid making the same mistake.

First Mental Image (FMI):

Burger King’s creepy mascot breaking into the corporate headquarters of rival McDonald’s.

An awful first mental image. It’s never a good idea to attach your brand name to a negative mental image like corporate espionage. Especially in light of scandals such as Enron, the sub-prime housing bailout, or the disgraced money manager Bernard Madoff. In this case, viewers might be left with a vaguely unpleasant feeling and choose to avoid Burger King without being able to recall exactly why.

The Message:

The Sausage McMuffin with Egg sandwich is so good that Burger Kind has decided to steal the recipe from McDonald’s.

Burger King inadvertently does more to promote McDonald’s than itself. Why on earth would you want to direct so much positive attention to your rival?

Copying your competitor’s products or services does nothing to create a point of differentiation. Rather, it dilutes your company’s position in the marketplace.

By creating a copycat and blatantly admitting it, Burger King sent a second unintended message to consumers: McDonald’s is breakfast sandwich is the best. And since many of us will have difficulty believing a copycat is anywhere near as good as the original, why not just head to McDonald’s for a Sausage McMuffin with Egg? After watching this commercial, I imagine most people will.

Last Mental Image (LMI):

The Burger King mascot making his getaway, presumably hurrying off to create an unoriginal breakfast sandwich.

Sigh. More scenes depicting Burger King engaging in a criminal activity.


Burger King worships at the altar of creativity. Entertainment drives the company’s advertising at the expense of developing a relevant position in the mind of the customer.

Sadly, this misguided approach produced an ad that wasted millions of dollars and eroded Burger King’s brand identity. It’s not surprising that Burger King sales continue to slide, while McDonald’s sales are rising.

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One Response to “Deconstructing Ads: Why Burger King’s Breakfast Muffin Sandwich Ad Is Criminal”

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  1. Tom,

    Excellent case study. Thanks for pointing out what should seem so obvious but isn't.

    I haven't been moved by any of BK's ads in years – probably since the “Special orders don't upset us” days, but I just figured I wasn't in their marketing plans.

    Now I know better – they apparently only want felons who prefer fakes to the original:-)

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