International Women’s Day was a couple days ago, and as expected, social media was filled with a mix of posts from individuals, organisations, and brands that shared either generic greetings ( “Happy International Women’s Day!”) , fun/silly content (“tag the best woman in your life!”), educational content (“how women shaped history”), meaningless statements (“we pledge to give more women a seat at the table”).
One brand tried to rise above the noise but unfortunately, it backfired spectacularly – at least on social media.
It all began with a simple tweet:
Now, whether this was an intentional decision or was posted under protest by Burger King’s digital team, the overwhelmingly negative reaction drowned out the rest of the – majorly positive – announcement that was shared in subsequent tweets.
The even more frustrating part? The other posts weren’t shared at once to give a clearer picture of where Burger King was coming from. Instead, each tweet was dripped after some time, leading to growing ire and anger to reach peak heights.
Ironically, Burger King recieved more positive reactions elsewhere because of the coherent message they released in other avenues, such as this full page ad in the New York Times. It’s easy to see why when they’re side by side:
This social media stumble and – frankly, expected – fall out meant that a genuine initiative and campaign, which should have garnered the fast food giant positive reactions and potentially even re-ignited conversations around professional chefs and the disparity in opportunity available for women vs men, instead caused Burger King to become the internet’s punching bag for a day.
In the end, Burger King deleted their original tweet and replaced it with a half-hearted apology that every company or public figure puts out when they want people to move on.
They also deleted their original tweet but by then, the damage was done.
Digital marketing professionals around the world spent the day wincing: first, wincing at how the original tweet was even allowed to go out (the most likely culprit is pressure from upper management or a senior individual who didn’t think things through despite the probable multiple objections by BK’s digital marketing or social media team) then wincing at how things evolved throughout the day before releasing a final wince when the apology was posted.
This campaign is definitely going down in case studies and textbooks as one of “this is what a poorly thought out or executed campaign looks like”. There are going to be dozens of critiques, examinations, op-eds, blog posts, articles, social media posts – and everything in between – over the next coming days.
Let’s see if Burger King can not just weather this storm but actually learn from it so that their next campaign will have a stronger, more positive, and hopefully, more concrete impact.