Well, International Women’s Day 2021 was surely eventful. The social media team at Burger King surely swung for the fences on this international holiday founded to fight for women’s equality.
In my daily scrolling through social media, I came across the now infamous tweet from @burgerkinguk and immediately stopped to read it:
“Women belong in the kitchen.”
Immediately, I clicked on the tweet to see if it was real. There are a lot of fake accounts out there. Upon clicking, I saw the remainder of the thread:
Clearly this was a real tweet, with the intention of drawing attention to the disparity of women chefs in the industry, and their attempt to correct that through their new scholarship program.
Admittedly, my reaction was mixed. My eyes popped out of my head when I initially read the tweet. I could hardly believe what I was reading. However, after reading the remainder of the thread, I understood what they were trying to do. Ultimately, marketing is about drawing attention and boy were they successful in doing that! Before being deleted, the tweet had over 650K likes and over 160K retweets. Certainly, they were the topic of conversation and in that light, the campaign was successful.
Initially, Burger King attempted to defend their approach. After a user commented that their tweet was “weird”, they responded by saying “We think it’s weird that women make up only 20% of chefs in the UK restaurant industry.”
However, after an influx of abusive comments, they decided to delete the tweet. Clearly, their attempt did not produce the desired results.
My opinion here may be controversial, but I give Burger King credit for this social media campaign. In today’s world, it is easy to take the safe road. Particularly on social media where being offended is the default status for most people. I give them credit for having the courage to try something new, outside of the box and not conform to “vanilla” “run-of-the-mill” content. Most importantly, I give them credit for realizing that they made a mistake. Their well intentioned message was not delivered properly, and thereby not received by their audience in the spirit they intended. It was certainly a swing for the fences and ultimately a strike out. But I applaud them for being brave enough to take the chance and I hope that they will continue to push the envelope and take calculated risks.
At the end of the day, marketing is about drawing attention to yourself. We cannot argue that the campaign was successful from that standpoint. We are all now aware of their scholarship, would we have been otherwise? Would a safer approach have garnered as much attention? We’ll never know. But in my opinion, it wouldn’t have. Controversy drives clicks. Here’s the big question though, however well intentioned, is sexist clickbait an appropriate way to get that attention? If you were in the decision making room at Burger King UK, would you have suggested a different approach? Or would you have been aligned with taking that risk? I’d love to know your thoughts in the comments.