Burger King put a scare into McDonald’s in the mid-1970s with a catchy jingle backed by one of the most successful taglines in advertising history—“Have it Your Way,” a nod to the chain’s willingness to customize orders, unlike its larger rival. Now Burger King is trying to recapture some of its old magic by reviving the jingle, with some modern twists and a new line: “You Rule.”
The campaign—which also rekindles the “Have it Your Way” line—is the first effort for BK from Chicago independent OKRP and marks the beginning of a $400 million, two-year brand overhaul in the U.S. that includes marketing, menu and restaurant upgrades. The new investment, which was announced last month by the Restaurant Brands International-owned chain, seeks to spur more traffic to Burger King’s 7,000-plus locations by modernizing historical brand marketing anchors such as “Flame Grilling” and “Have it Your Way.”
The new ads feature a song that carries a similar melody as the old jingle, but has more of a rap style. It includes lines such as, “You rule your season today, at BK have it your way” against scenes of a diverse cast of customers enjoying Whoppers, onion rings and chicken fries.
Another ad serves as an ode to the Whopper with extreme closeups and plenty of flames.
The ads will run nationally starting Oct. 10, including on TV. Burger King representatives have not shared further details on the media buy. Burger King in a statement described the new campaign as an “emotional articulation of ‘Have It Your Way,’” adding, You Rule “is about celebrating everyday royalty, and puts the guest at the forefront of everything the brand does.” Tom Curtis, Burger King North America President, in a statement described the push as a “simple and meaningful articulation of how Burger King celebrates our guests. It embodies our purpose, embraces individuality, and elevates Have It Your Way—something our brand has always been known for–beyond pure product customization.”
The back-to-basics approach serves as a significant marketing pivot for the brand under OKRP, which won the account in April as part of a U.S. agency shuffle that included bringing on Omnicom Group's PHD as its media agency. Under previous agency David—a favorite shop of former Burger King and Restaurant Brands International marketer Fernando Machado—BK often dabbled in attention-grabbing stunts such as the “Moldy Whopper,” which was aimed at highlighting a move to drop preservatives. Such work won awards and praise in the creative community, but did not spark a lot of sales momentum. Burger King lost its No. 2 U.S. burger chain status to Wendy’s in 2020. In 2021, of the nation’s 11 largest restaurant chains, Burger King and Subway were the only two that failed to recover to reach 2019 sales levels, according to the 2022 Technomic Top 500 Chain Restaurant Report, cited by Restaurant Business. In this year’s second quarter, Burger King underperformed McDonald’s, posting 0.4% same-store sales growth in the U.S., compared with 3.7% for its rival.
‘It starts with the food’ OKRP CEO Tom O’Keefe in an interview said the agency was given a “clear, specific brief” from the beginning—which was “let’s put the consumer back in the front.” Referencing OKRP’s previous experience with food accounts, including Taco Bell, he said, “There are certain things that work within the category and it starts with the food, and making the food super appetizing and finding a way to make it interesting and appealing.” “I think they did some really terrific creative work,” he added, referring to BK’s recent work with previous agencies. “We went in a different direction—our direction was build the brand and sell food.” OKRP’s early idea was to make use of music in some way and it later opted to re-imagine the old jingle and rekindle “Have it Your Way.” But as ubiquitous as the line still is, the agency didn't want to take a chance that it might not resonate today, O’Keefe said. So the agency landed on “You Rule” as “a way to pay tribute to ‘Have it Your Way,’ but take it to a new level,” he said.
“Have it Your Way” first debuted in 1973 in a campaign from BBDO that included lines like "Hold the pickle, hold the lettuce. Special orders don't upset us." The campaign increased ad awareness by 50%, according to the Ad Age Encyclopedia. Burger King in ensuing years shifted to other taglines—such as “Taste is King," which arrived in 2001. But it has frequently come back to the “Have it Your Way” formula in various formats. In 2014 it unleashed “Be Your Way,” which executives at the time pitched as a way to feed into the need for self-expression. The “Have it Your Way” mentality also anchored one of the chain’s most successful marketing stunts, the “Subservient Chicken,” the groundbreaking effort from Crispin Porter & Bogusky and Barbarian Group. It plugged customization of the TenderCrisp chicken sandwich with a website that had a chicken mascot respond to visitors' typed commands.