Creepy is memorable: How the new Hamburglar stole the Internet


McDonalds is in the midst of refreshing its brand after years of lagging sales and scrutiny over its nutrition and marketing practices to children. Just in time, the company has resurrected the once impish cartoon, the Hamburglar. Not only is McDonald’s notorious masked hamburger thief all grown up as an in-the-flesh marauder, he’s a husband, and a dad!

Some speculate the grown up Hamburglar is a response to McDonald’s history of using cartoon marketing to woo children. McDonald’s new Hamburglar may also be an attempt to court Millennials who have been turning away from fast food in favor of fresher and healthier alternatives. Bringing back a beloved mascot is certainly one way to connect with a younger (but not too young!) and hipper audience, and KFC appears to be doing it quite well with its pop-culturized version of Colonel Sanders.

McDonald’s has hit upon some unlikely social media gold with its awkward and some say downright creepy new Hamburglar. The Twitter universe lit up with hilarious commentary referring to the Hamburglar as a “hipster” and comparing him to the “Trivago Guy”. The Verge referred to the new character as “…a dad who picked the lamest costume at Party City.” The jokes and confusion over the new character even gave way to the hashtag #notmyhamburglar. Everyone, from the New York Times to Marketwatch to Mashable, to Huffington Post, is talking about the new Hamburglar.

McDonald’s social media strategy has centered around creating a “fun” image for the brand, and acknowledging the fact that the brand will always have its detractors as well as its advocates (Whiteside, 2013). As such, the company elected to unveil the new Hamburglar via a series of short “teaser” videos on Twitter. Unfortunately, the videos, featuring the Hamburglar in the stereotypical bumbling husband role have fallen flat with viewers.

McDonald’s is no stranger to the ups and downs of social media. In 2013, the company received unlikely social media attention when a video interview with Charles Ramsay went viral, following the horrific revelation and release of three Cleveland kidnapping victims. Ramsay was quoted as saying, “I was just eating my McDonald’s” when he heard the cries for help. McDonald’s was slow to respond after it was immediately thrust into social media conversation, but eventually ended up offering Ramsay free Big Macs for a year, and donated on his behalf to an organization for kidnap victims (Whiteside, 2013).

For better or worse, the new Hamburglar will most likely continue to be the butt of Internet jokes and will continue to generate E-wordof-mouth for the brand through sheer absurdity. It will be interesting to watch and see if McDonald’s attempts to join the fray and poke fun at itself a bit. Trivago, criticized for the sloppy appearance of its lackluster front man, held a public contest to give the guy a makeover, spinning an Internet joke into a marketing opportunity. Will McDonald’s intervene and admit that the new Hamburglar is just an out-of-touch suburban dad going through his first and most dramatic of many midlife crises? Or will he steal our hearts, along with our Big Macs?


Whiteside, S. (2013, June). Creating a more human brand image: McDonald’s social media strategy. WARC.

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6 Responses to Creepy is memorable: How the new Hamburglar stole the Internet

  1. Caliah says:

    Hi Chrisitna, what an interesting post.

    Admittedly I hadn’t heard of this new campaign Mc Donald’s launched to reintroduce us to the Hamburlar, but I definitely feel up to speed now, and a little hungry.

    Their use of a real person doesn’t surprise me as much though. I remember when Ronald Mc Donald was once a “real man” and in my opinion, he was just as creepy.

    To be honest, I think Mc Donald’s has integrated so deep into American culture, that they don’t necessarily have to be as successfully with their media campaigns. They have locations in other countries where people patronize, to either feel American or feel home in America, for those traveling. Generations have grown up either eating there or not eating there so it has always been talked about & therefore publicized.

    Thank you for your post & now I’m interested to see how this pans out for them.


  2. Jessica says:


    Lively topic! I don’t really remember the old hamburglar but I am definitely going to remember the creepy new one! i thought that the hamburglar dad video was rather absurd but kinda cute too, more absurd though. When I think of the media traction this has probably generated I would assume that it has generated more negative than positive but I don’t think it necessarily matters as long as its being viewed.

    I am curious to understand why they felt the need to revive old children tactics and aim them at adults instead of just listening to what people want like a fresh product and more variety. Wouldn’t that have been easier?

    Thank you

  3. Jennifer says:


    This is a fantastic topic and relevant to what we’ve been learning in class thus far.

    I didn’t know Hamburglar resurfaced and that these ads even existed! But by the looks of it, I’m not impressed. In my opinion, this would of been better for a McDonald’s anniversary ad to garner nostalgic reactions from the public: Perhaps McDonald’s could capture fathers around the world dressing like hamburglar and reliving their memories of the cartoon and passing it down to their children. That would have delivered a more meaningful message, but this random father dressed as Hamburglar doesn’t give me any connection to him: it just looks creepy.

    You raise a good point Christina- the ads were already released and the public is poking fun at them, so McDonald’s should take the self-depricating approach and go along with it to create a marketing opportunity. Doing this will show their humurous side and it gives people a reason to stay interested in the brand.

  4. Rebecca says:

    Wow! Thanks for sharing this creepy news… I grew up back in the early 80’s and it was a treat when my dad would take my sister and I down the road to the bigger McDonald’s restaurant so we could play in the play place – which I don’t recall it’s actual name now. I remember at that particular location in San Jose, there was a life sided Ronald and Hamburglar that we would climb on and sit next to. Imagine that now… I certainly wouldn’t put my kids near the adult ‘burglar!!

    Coincidentally, this is not the only “modern-day” change that McDonald’s seems to be making to focus on adjusting their target market. They’ve also recently started to weave out the minimum wage workers and have started replacing them with automated machines. Just like the Self-Checkout stations at our grocery stores, McDonald’s is setting up Self-Ordering kiosks at the front counter. They’ve received some positive feedback based on the article I’ve included . Check it out. It is an interesting read.



  5. Rebecca says:

    Apparehently I didn’t include the link to the article on McDonald’s new Self-Order Kiosks – Sorry! Here it is:

  6. Hector says:


    I think this is a great example of when brands scramble to stay relevant with a certain demographic, and in this case, millennials. It strikes me as odd that McDonald’s would bring an updated version of The Hamburglar to appeal to Millennials, since his whole gimmick is…to steal hamburgers. To really appeal to Millennials, the updated version of this beloved 70s character would need to be health conscious, eco-friendly, and trade in his burger stealing ways for maybe stealing..kale instead. I really would have liked to see the focus group and survey results with this demo on their feelings of the Hamburglar because it’s hard to believe that the creative that McDonald’s used in their campaign doesn’t seem like it would have tested very well.