By now, most of us will be familiar with Burger King's misstep with its International Women's Day marketing stunt. The brand has since apologised for the tweet on 9 March, and deleted it an hour later. However, according to Burger King's global CMO, Fernando Machado, the removal of the tweet was not in its initial plans.
In one of Machado's reply to Twitter users when the initial backlash happened, he said that although Burger King is sorry about how the message came across and will be issuing an apology, "taking it down would give even more attention to it". He added that the decision to not remove the tweet was not an issue of giving the company a bad look. "If that were the issue, we wouldn't issue an apology," he explained.
In a separate reply, Machado said the intention behind Burger King's activity is actually good, but the format in which it was portrayed on Twitter was not ideal.
"I take full responsibility. I don't think we should have tweeted that headline in isolation. Because no one read threads on Twitter. The intent behind this activity was [different]. And it is a shame it didn't go the way we wanted in UK," Machado added.
Burger King ran print and social media ads with a large headline "Women belong in the kitchen", followed by a smaller font stating that only 20% of chefs are women, and Burger King looks to change the gender ratio by empowering its female employers. However, when adapted onto Twitter, the company tweeted the phrase "Women belong in the kitchen" in isolation first, before adding in a second tweet its real intention of promoting its scholarships that aimed to help women interested in culinary to become chefs. This risked many netizens only seeing the first tweet, and misconstruing Burger King's message.
According to data from Meltwater, there were approximately 64.2k mentions of Burger King in the past week, of which 23% were negative while only 8% were positive. Across the different online platforms, Twitter saw the highest number of negative sentiments at 14,083. This was followed by Facebook and Reddit, which saw a significantly lower number of 218 and 499 negative sentiments respectively.
Meanwhile, data from social media monitoring company Digimind found that online conversations mostly meandered along the topic of whether or not the tweet had the board’s approval, if not postulating the reaction of the agency or social media manager responsible. Netizens were also quick to chastise the brand by recalling a previous International Women's Day campaign stunt in 2017, where the brand changed its iconic name to “Burger Queen” for just a day, as if to pander to a “woke” community by some way of virtue signalling.
However, barring the negativity that besieged the campaign, Digimind's data saw that there were also netizens who recognised Burger King’s intention to empower women at the end of the day, regardless of how distasteful the expression was in delivery. Additionally, amidst Burger King's spike in mentions on 9 March, only 15.2% was attributed to the backlash from its tweet.
Burger King eventually decided to delete the original tweet came after it was brought to attention that there were sexual abusive comments in the thread. According to a Twitter user, another user had called her "the c-word" in one of Machado's replies. While Machado admitted that he did not see it, he acknowledges the incident must have been awful. Soon after, Machado said Burger King will be removing the tweet, thanking the user for highlighting the fact that there was abuse going on in the thread. He further emphasised that the company is "fighting the good fight".
"I know this one didn't go well. But the intentions are good. And I hope time shows that," Machado added.
A quick check by MARKETING-INTERACTIVE showed that Burger King's ad on Facebook and Instagram are still up, although netizens have also raised their unhappiness that the line "Women belong in the kitchen" was used. One netizen said in response to Burger King's Facebook post that although she understood the intention, using "clickbait that furthers a harmful, misogynistic narrative misses the mark and ultimately does more harm than good".
Many other netizens also criticised Burger King's marketing team for the ad, with one advising the team: "don’t take a derogatory term and try to make it into a marketing movement". Another netizen pointed out that using that line that was deemed "sexist" can bring a different tone to the scholarships Burger King is offering. "[Are you] giving scholarships to put women back in the kitchen? or giving scholarships to empower women in a career?!! there is a HUGE difference!" the netizen said.
Besides attracting attention from online users, Burger King's Twitter post also saw competitor KFC showing its disapproval. In reply to Burger King's original tweet, KFC's gaming arm tweeted an image of Colonel Sanders pointing to the words: "The best time to delete this post was immediately after posting it. The second best time is now." on a canvas. KFC Gaming subsequently took a jab at Burger King's attempt, and posted a similar tweet on its Twitter platform that started with "Women belong in gaming". However, unlike Burger King, KFC Gaming continued in the same tweet, thanking all the "writers, actors, producers, CEOs and more who played a part in creating games that are enjoyed every day".
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