Under the Influence

Why it's hard to find a Burger King in Australia

Companies often change valuable brand names when expanding to other countries. Sometimes the reason is a language issue. But other times, the reasons are far more interesting.
The 40-year-old fight for the Burger King brand name in Australia came to an unexpected conclusion. (Gene J. Puskar/The Associated Press)

Companies often change valuable brand names when expanding to other countries. Sometimes the reason is a language issue. But other times, the reasons are far more interesting.

When Burger King was founded in 1954, it was originally called Insta-Burger King and grew quickly through franchising.

Simplifying the name to Burger King, the fast food restaurant created its flagship burger, the Whopper, in 1957.

Today Burger King has 17,700 locations around the world. You can walk into a Burger King anywhere and be assured of getting the Whopper — as you know it — the way you want it:

Except you won't find Burger King in Australia because it's the only place in the world where Burger Kings are called Hungry Jack's.

When Burger King got to Australia in 1971, it discovered there was already a local restaurant there called Burger King.

So the local Burger King franchisee — who was Canadian, by the way — chose to go with the name Hungry Jack's instead. And when you walked into a Hungry Jack's restaurant, it was virtually identical to Burger King locations in every way — except name.

Over the years, Hungry Jack's tried to purchase the trademark from the local Burger King, but failed. As Hungry Jack's became the largest Burger King franchisee outside of the U.S. — even though it didn't do business under the Burger King name — the relationship between Hungry Jack's and the Burger King Corporation became strained.

The Burger King of Australia. (Wikimedia Commons)

Then, in the mid-90s, the Burger King trademark in Australia expired.

Burger King's international head office immediately opened up dozens of locations in Australia. Hungry Jack's — aka Burger King — suddenly found itself competing with Burger King. Then Burger King tried to terminate its deal with Hungry Jack's. As a result, the two brands had a contentious relationship for more than a decade.

It all ended up in court in 2001, where Hungry Jack's finally won the Burger King rights to all of Australia.

But after all those years and all those attempts to acquire the name, the fast-food company made a surprising decision. Hungry Jack's decided to keep the Hungry Jack's name even though it finally had the right to name the entire Australian chain Burger King.

While Hungry Jack's had been trying for 40 years to get the Burger King name, it was building brand value in the Hungry Jack's name. The name was local, it was firmly established and it was purely Australian.

To switch after all that time would have been bad business.

The irony of a long, long fight.

For more stories about Brand Names in Different Countries, click or tap the "Listen" button above to hear the full Under the Influence episode. You can also find us on the CBC Radio app or subscribe to our podcast.

Under the Influence is recorded in the Terstream Mobile Recording studio, a 1969 Airstream trailer that's been restored and transformed into a studio on wheels, so host Terry O'Reilly can record the show wherever he goes.

Follow the journey on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, and search the hashtag: #Terstream.

The Terstream Mobile Recording Studio. (Image Credit: Sidney O'Reilly)