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Burger King gets grilled for 'rainbow-washing' with Pride Whopper

Burger King gets grilled for 'rainbow-washing' with Pride Whopper

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Burger King is currently being grilled in Austria over its Pride Whopper. The Whopper, marketed across its social media channels, comes in two variations: two top buns and with two bottom buns. The post, which was translated into English, said the Whoppers come in two matching buns to represent equal love and equal rights, adding that it stands for the equal rights of all identities and sexual orientations. According to the QSR brand''s post, it aimed to put a smile on people's faces and remind them to treat each other respectfully and peacefully.

However, Burger King Austria's marketing gimmick was not foolproof as it garnered mixed sentiments from netizens. Some accused the brand of rainbow-washing and pride-washing, with several questioning if there was any actionable impact on the LGBTQ+ community. One user asked: "Are you also doing anything specifically for the LGBTIQ community, or is this just an advertising hook for you?", while another commented: "One day into Pride month and [I'm] already exhausted". A few even questioned the marketing concept of the Pride Whoppers, with one user asking if the burgers are spread over the normal year hetero and the buns are assigned a gender.

Meanwhile, other netizens sided with Burger King for its funny concept and took it in good stride. "You all are complaining but this is lowkey funny," one user said, while another joked that two tops and two bottoms usually wouldn’t work.

At the same time, one user pointed out that the queer community may be unreasonable, adding that the nice gesture by the brand was better than nothing at all, and the brand did mention in its ad that it was just to put a smile on people's faces during Pride month, which is already considered an added value.

The same netizen also added that it was nonsense to interpret that the burgers had a gender or would be deemed straight for other times of the year. Addressing other netizens' accusations of the brand pride-washing, she said that queer people complain that they are not seen and accepted every other moment, yet every year in June they get heated over companies that want to make a profit with rainbow products. "At least it draws attention to us once a year," she said. 

(Read more: #Explainit: June is not the only month for Pride Month [Video])

With June being Pride Month, it is common for brands to show support by either changing their logos to a rainbow-coloured one or releasing products and marketing campaigns related to Pride Month. While there is effort in supporting the LGBTQIA+ community, it is not unusual for brands to fall prey to rainbow-washing or pride-washing.

A 2021 study by Popular Information, an American online newsletter launched in 2018 by journalist and lawyer Judd Legum, found that 25 major US companies, including AT&T, CVS Health and Comcas, have spent over US$10 million since 2019 supporting anti-gay politicians at the federal and state level. These same corporations also expressed support for the LGBTQIA+ community on social media.

AT&T, for example, urged consumers to support its Trevor Project while Comcast plastered its social media posts with rainbows. However, Popular Information said both companies have each donated more than US$1 million to anti-gay politicians in the last two years. Aside from genuine attempts to support the LGBTQIA+ community, these efforts should also be a recurring one and go beyond Pride Month too.

Nonetheless, Burger King is known for its creative campaign executions. Last month, it served up a campaign for its Whopper based on physical surveys done in London, Tokyo, Mexico City, and Stockholm. The study conducted in April found that only 3% of participants are able to name burgers on Burger King's menu. The campaign film also showed Burger King asking consumers to name just three burgers on their menu in exchange for US$10,000. But again, most failed to name any other than the Whopper. Seeing as how no one can name four burgers from Burger King's menu, Burger King worked with Swedish ad agency Ingo Stockholm to take advantage of this seemingly dismal situation and turned the study's results into a global print and OOH campaign for the flagship burger.

Related articles:
Burger King fires up OOH and print campaign using failed survey
Burger King Indonesia opens doors to other food brands this Ramadan
Burger King MY says it does not condone staff who shamed women on TikTok
Burger King MY gets consumers fired up over new burger after cheesy macaroni 'glitch'

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