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Burger King – 3 Campaigns Supporting Social Activism Movements

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Latest customer behaviour research has shown that customers are expecting brands to initiate conversations on social issues.

When done correctly social activism can be a powerful way for brands to connect and engage with their customer base.

Here are 3 campaigns created by Burger King in support of the following social issues: teen bullying, mental health and net neutrality.

1. Burger King / Bullying Jr

I love it when brands make experiments to showcase a societal issue!

In this case, Burger King took on bullying, the widespread behaviour phenomenon among teenagers with serious consequences on the emotional and mental health of the bullied.

Burger King found a creative way to put this issue into perspective: a parallel between a bullied Whopper Jr and a bullied high school teen.

You might think there are only two persons involved in the act of bullying: the bully, the person exhibiting aggressive behaviour and the bullied, the person being mistreated. There’s a third person involved in bullying – the bystander.

The bystander watches the aggressive actions of the bully and has to decide between two choices of action: get involved and stop the bullying or do nothing and walk away. It’s a matter of knowing what’s right and what’s wrong and stand up for it. It’s the bystander’s reaction to bullying that this campaign is looking to analyze.

That’s what Burger King set out to find with this campaign: do you care more about your burger or about a child?

2. Burger King / #FeelYourWay

On the 70th anniversary of Mental Health Awareness Month, Burger King created Real Meals in partnership with Mental Health America: five meals with names designed to illustrate various emotions and feelings other than happiness. Yes, you are correct: the campaign takes a jab at McDonald’s Happy Meals.

#FeelYourWay did a good job attracting media attention and starting conversations, although many believed for all the wrong reasons.

The pros and cons of #FeelYourWay

The Pros

  • The campaign’s message is good: no one is happy all the time and that’s ok. It is reflective of today’s world of social media where people are all smiles, projecting an unrealistic happy life. People who lived in the pre-social media world (now in their forties or thirties) don’t fall into this trap because they know real life is not all glitter and gold. Young people, on the other hand, are still growing emotionally so they are more inclined to seek social approval and acceptance at the expense of their mental health by not showing their true emotions;
  • President and CEO of Mental Health America Paul Gionfriddo was happy with the campaign’s results: it had 2500 earned media stories with 80% positive coverage and website traffic jumped from 3000 to 4000 screeners a day with 500 to 600 people reaching out for help.

The Cons

  • The campaign is basically about the same Burger King meals but packaged in coloured boxes;
  • It doesn’t exactly talk about people suffering from mental illnesses like paranoia, depression, schizophrenia, it talks about socially acceptable feelings we all experience when we’re having a bad day;
  • Medical research has found an association between fast food consumption and depression so it’s actually in bad taste (pun intended) that a prominent fast-food chain restaurant creates a mental health awareness campaign;
  • Fast-food workers are among the top three categories of employees to experience sleep deprivation, anxiety and emotional burnout which prompted many to ask what steps has Burger King taken to support the mental health of their own employees.

Marketing stunt or authentic empathy?

Share your thoughts.

3. Burger King / Whopper Neutrality

Net Neutrality is a set of principles which state that Internet service providers must treat all Internet communications equally, and not discriminate or charge differently based on user, content, website, platform, application, type of equipment, or method of communication.

In late 2017, the Federal Communications Commission unveiled plans to repeal the net neutrality policy in the United States which meant the end of free, open and equal internet.

To fight against a closed-off internet, started the Save the Net petition which has been signed by over 2,500,000 people to date.

Burger King joined in the movement with the Whopper Neutrality campaign which showcases the consequences of discriminatory internet access.

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