Burger King’s Turkey Sandwich Plays Chicken with Brand Identity

PR professionals are inherently interested in fast food brands because the trajectory of public sentiment has trended toward healthier eating habits. This puts fast food brands in an obvious pickle. As we all know, fast food chains are perceived as being anything but healthy.

So what are companies like McDonald’s, Taco Bell and Burger King to do as the human species shifts away from greasy burgers and buckets of soda? Well, offering healthier choices is the logical place to start. And Burger King is doing just that: the company just announced the Spring 2013 debut of its new turkey burger, which will retail for $3.99. This new offering is the latest in a not-so-new trend for fast food brands as they scramble to keep up with the public’s changing diet.

However, these changes also reflect a tacit admission by fast food brands that their traditional menus are unhealthy. As PR people, we advocate transparency and telling the truth. But we also recognize that by offering a turkey sandwich, apple slices or reduced fat shakes, fast food chains may in fact lose some of the public’s support. After all, how many times have you heard this conversation:

Tom: Let’s eat somewhere healthy, I’m trying to lose weight for the half marathon.

Brenda: I know, Burger King.

The answer is “none”–it simply doesn’t happen. So it will be an interesting PR study for industry experts to follow as fast food brands try to balance their old food offerings with their new ones. Such seismic changes cause both PR and brand identity problems as an uneasy public grapples with the changing image of their favorite pig-out spots.

What does the PR future look like for fast food chains?