After Burger King’s tweet about International Women’s Day was criticized for sounding sexist, the company’s global chief marketing officer said, “Obviously, we didn’t mean to offend.” The burger chain started a new International Women’s Day campaign on Monday to say that it will give scholarships to women in the U.S., U.K., Mexico, and other places to help them learn how to cook. The goal was to help close the gender gap since only 24% of U.S. chefs and 7% of head chefs are women. But a tweet from Burger King U.K. that said “Women belong in the kitchen” took attention away from these good ideas.
In a second tweet, Burger King U.K. said, “Of course, if they want to.” Still, women make up only 20% of chefs. We’re on a mission to change the ratio of men to women in the restaurant business by giving women the chance to work in the kitchen. But by then, it had already made up its mind.
“I think there are a lot of lessons to be learned from this,” says Fernando Machado, the CMO of Restaurant Brands International. Machado is also the global CMO of Burger King, which is a subsidiary of RBI. “In the end, we are doing something good, but the headline we used made some people upset, especially when it was used out of context.” “We hope that in time when people see what we are doing and what we will continue to do, they will see that our goal was good.”
Burger King doesn’t get burned every day. The fast-food chain has a history of successful but risky campaigns, like bringing attention to moldy burgers, delivering food to people stuck in traffic, feeding gassy cows, and making cologne that smells like a “Whopper.” This was one of the few times that it didn’t work.
Even though the IWD campaign was also held in the U.S., it was done in a different way. For example, Burger King ran a full-page ad in the New York Times with the slogan “Women belong in the kitchen” and an explanation of what it meant. The tweet from the company’s U.K. Twitter account was followed by an explanation, but most people didn’t look at the second one because the first one made them so angry.
Later, the company tweeted an apology and more information about what happened, but rude comments in the replies made the company delete the first tweet.
On Burger King’s marketing teams, there are a number of women who are in charge. Ellie Doty became the company’s U.S. chief marketing officer (CMO) in June. The company’s marketing heads in the U.K. and Spain are also women. Machado says that Popeyes and Tim Hortons, which are also owned by RBI, also have female CMOS.
Machado said, “By no means am I saying that we do a good job of representing people.” “But we are making good progress toward teams with more people from different backgrounds.”
Some experts in marketing say that Burger King’s campaign was well-meaning but didn’t fit the mood of the time. Mindy Sears, the group creative director at the marketing firm RAPP, says that women have already lost a lot because of the pandemic.
“With the way things are right now because of the pandemic, so many women have lost help with school and daycare,” says Sears. “Since last year, 2 million women have stopped working.” “So they don’t have the help they used to have and can’t work the way they want to.”
Tynesha Williams, executive creative director of the creative studio 3AM, says that the original tweet brought attention to the gender gap, even though it wasn’t done in a sensitive way. She says, though, that it would have been better if the first sentence and the explanation that came after it had been put in the same tweet, with a space between them.
Williams says that people shouldn’t be too hard on Burger King. She also says that it’s important to remember that the company is “not a reckless brand” and that it has a good track record of standing up for social issues like “Black Lives Matter.”
“Sometimes brands just want to make a joke,” she says. “They didn’t mean to be funny.” They were trying to make a good point. So I know we live in a culture of canceling, and we need to be careful about that. There are some crazy things out there. But they aren’t that brand, and they haven’t been that brand in the past.
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