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How Did Burger King’s Women’s Day Whopper Happen?

On March 9, in support of International Women’s day, Burger King tweeted “Women belong in the kitchen." It was part of a campaign that noted just 20% of chefs are women and highlighted Burger King’s support and efforts to empower female employees. So reports

Burger KingHowever, the entire message was not always delivered together… and when it was delivered as a whole, the part about women belonging in the kitchen was given much more emphasis. Lost in the controversy was the intent of the campaign: promoting Burger King’s support of culinary scholarships.

Burger King’s CMO initially said the company would issue an apology, but would not remove the Tweet because that would give it more attention. “I don't think we should have tweeted that headline in isolation. Because no one read threads on Twitter,” said Fernando Machado, Burger King's global CMO. Burger King ended up removing the tweet.

KFC, for its part, was quick to condemn the Tweet. "The best time to delete this post was immediately after posting it. The second best time is now," KFC wrote.

Linda Tuncay Zayer, a marketing professor, says Burger King lacked the “cultural capital” to credibly weigh in on gender disparity. She teaches at the Quinlan School of Business at Loyola University Chicago. “Burger King doesn’t have authority on gender equality, and then you couple that with a bad trope, and it was a recipe for disaster,” she says, according to The Washington Post.

Susan Dobscha, a professor of marketing at Bentley University, notes that this isn’t the only time recently that Burger King has had to apologize for sexist advertising. In 2018, the company offered a lifetime supply of Whoppers “to Russian women who got pregnant by World Cup players in a social media post that aimed to ‘ensure the success of the Russian team for generations to come,’” according to the article.

The Source of the Problem?
A recent column in Marketing Week contends that a big part of the problem that led to a campaigns like Burger King’s is that the industry is still run by white men.

“We speak of how woke we are, then celebrate International Women’s Day by running a campaign proclaiming that women belong in the kitchen,” the article reads.

The article’s author says marketers missed the lesson from the Burger King controversy. “The story of the fast-food company’s failure is not one of a misfire in isolation. Rather, what one must understand is this: such a campaign, for such a brand, on such a day, does not go out without a fair few people having given it their blessings. And it still did.”

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