While many of us may not need encouragement to head to our local fast food joint, fast food mascots exist to promote the greasy, fatty, totally delicious foods of our favorite chain restaurants. If you're questioning your decision to head to the drive-thru, the frozen face of the Burger King or Ronald McDonald's painted smile will be just what you need to put your doubts aside and visit your favorite franchise. It might be flawed logic, but we're not complaining. Fast food mascots have given us plenty of fond memories throughout the years, and - even more importantly - plenty of content for some of our favorite memes.
However, not all mascots are created equal. Some of the best fast food mascots are also the stuff of nightmares. Certain creatures are lovable and sweet, but others are better left in the past. Check out the list of fast food mascots below to vote up your favorites and determine which mascots were a good branding choice, and which were a mistake.
History: When Wendy's first opened in 1969, founder Dave Thomas decided to use his 8-year-old daughter as the inspiration for his logo. Thus, Wendy's created a mascot people know and love: a freckled little girl with bright red hair that falls in impossibly voluminous pigtails sticking out from the sides of her head.
However, this depiction of Wendy served only as a logo, as the young girl never made it into Wendy's commercials. Later, Wendy appeared as a charismatic young woman who loved the food. Finally, Wendy appeared as herself. That's right, the real Wendy Thomas starred in a Wendy's ad, using her personal history to promote the fast food chain. Today, Wendy's still features the young, freckle-faced girl as their primary logo, even though the real Wendy Thomas has grown up.
Why She's Great: Wendy is undeniably recognizable. She's been the primary logo of Wendy's since the beginning and her image is irrevocably tied to the restaurant chain. Her personality is a central part of the fast food chain - that of a sweet young girl with plenty of pep and enthusiasm. Plus, her association with her father gives the brand a family feel, even though it has grown into a huge corporation.
History: Perhaps the most recognizable of the many McDonald's mascots, Ronald McDonald made his debut in 1963. He was originally based on Bozo the Clown after the character gained popularity in the 1950s. He was later dubbed the "Chief Happiness Officer" of the company and took up residence in a magical world called McDonaldland with his friends. McDonald's built a world around Ronald, giving them a huge advantage in advertising to children. Although the company has pulled back in using Ronald as their primary advertising personality, they still don't like to acknowledge that he's not real.
Why He's Great: Ronald McDonald is a happy-go-lucky character who just wants to bring joy to those around him. He's also one of the most recognizable fast food mascots in history. He transformed McDonald's into a source of entertainment for children, rather than simply a place to eat. Ronald always has plenty of stories to tell and he never stops smiling, even if his grin is painted on his face.
History: KFC's mascot is based on the original founder of the fast food chain, Harland David Sanders. Sanders got into the restaurant business in 1930 and was named an honorary Kentucky Colonel in 1935 because of his many contributions to the state's cuisine. He sold his Kentucky Fried Chicken corporation in 1964, though he remained the face of the brand. After his passing in 1980, Colonel Sanders remained a major part of KFC's branding as the man in the chain's logo, though his personality and history weren't featured in branding initiatives.
In 2015, KFC underwent a major marketing makeover that focused on bringing the Colonel back to the forefront of the brand. They hired various actors to play Colonel Sanders, focusing on the Colonel's contributions to the fast food chain and making his personality a major part of their marketing campaigns. Since then, the Colonel has been the primary focus in all KFC branding initiatives, including the release of a video game and a DC comic book.
Why He's Great: As a character, Colonel Sanders is a lovable, sweet old man with plenty of personal ties to KFC. He's often portrayed by comedians, which gives the brand plenty of room to create funny and innovative commercials.
History: In 1995, the popular chicken chain Chick-fil-A introduced their cow mascots. The cows stood on two legs, wore hats, and held billboards encouraging people to "Eat Mor Chikin." After the campaign experienced massive success, Chick-fil-A stuck with the cows as their primary mascots, using them for all of their branding initiatives ever since.
Why They're Great: While cows initially seem like an odd choice, the mascots push the idea that cows want you to eat more chicken in order to save bovine lives. The clever idea expanded into using real cows in commercials, resulting in plenty of meme-worthy content. While the idea itself is applause-worthy, the cows used in the commercials are also cute and talented, resulting in creative ads that you'll actually want to watch.