Burger Queer Logo - © 2020 Burger King

Burger King Triggers Pride Week Social Media Tizzy

Remember a couple of years back when McDonald’s set up an elaborate promo stunt, turning its Golden Arches sign upside down to celebrate International Women’s Day? Well, Burger King Mexico did something similar this year for Pride Week and the result threw the social media into a mixmaster?

Inverted McDonalds M - © McDonalds

You’ll probably recall that McDonald’s took a bold chance and turned it’s famous Golden Arches upside down for International Women’s Day in 2018. It was meant to be a big ‘W’, but, of course, more than one social media (t)wit opined as it looked more like a pair of… Well, you know. And saggy ones, at that. Some observers called it a major blunder while others hailed it as a brave, bold move that generated huge word-of-mouth promo on the street for the brand.

Well, Burger King Mexico has tried something similar this year, ostensibly to ‘honour’ the spirit of Pride Week. And the response, across the social media sphere, has been more divided than the opinions about Trump’s handling of the COVID-19 crisis. Furthermore, I’m sure the company and its marketing people didn’t commit to the stunt without considering all the possibilities. But did they imagine that the controversy that was certain to resonate around the globe, potentially affecting BK business everywhere?

What they did

I’ll admit I had mixed feelings when I first saw an image of BK’s ‘temporary’ new logo on my computer screen. Most folks will do a double take, to make sure that the ‘new’ logo actually says: ‘Burger Queer’. Yeah. No kidding.

Not only did they float the new logo online, they used it on in-store signage and packaging, and are reportedly giving out cardboard crowns with ‘Burger Queer’ orders – which might or might not be a thinly-veiled dig at competitor Dairy Queen. (More on that below…)

Poor taste? The co-opting of a once pejorative term that now means something positive in the non-binary gender community? A step backward in the evolution of the western world’s understanding and acceptance of the concept of gender as a rainbow, or continuum? Or a bold statement of support for the transgender community? Depends who you are.

The marketing rationale…

Of course, more than one observer wondered, on Facebook, why they didn’t just go for Burger ‘Queen’. I suspect they thought about it, but were afraid that might be too close to ‘Dairy Queen’, and might cause them real-world legal trouble.

Another factor that might have made ‘Queer’ look like a more useful term for the BK promo, is that, in the gender continuum sense, it’s generally understood to refer to a broad category of gender identities and might have appealed to the marketing types as ‘more inclusive’.

As The Urban dictionary explains, ‘Queer’ is actually short for ‘Generqueer’, which: “…is most commonly used to describe a person who feels that his/her gender identity does not fit into the socially constructed ‘norms’ associated with his/her biological sex. Genderqueer is an identity that falls anywhere between man/boy/male and woman/girl/female on the spectrum of gender identities.”

The ‘Proud Whopper’ (c. 2014)

The Proud Whopper - © 2014 Burger KingIt’s perhaps important to note that this isn’t the first time BK has done something potentially explosive to elevate the profile of its brand during Pride Week. In 2014, six years ago this week, it arranged to sell what it called the Proud Whopper – complete with Rainbow packaging – at just one San Francisco outlet.

As a control on the experiment, BK changed only the wrapper, adding the slogan: “We are all the same inside.” Indeed, the Whopper inside was exactly the same as a regular one.

According to a case study video spotlighted by causemarketing.com: “It gathered over one billion media impressions worth $21 million of earned media, 7 million views, and 450,000 blog mentions, and became the number one trending topic on Facebook and Twitter in one week. In the end, this became more than a hamburger wrapper; it became a proclamation of equality.”

No such thing as bad ‘chatter’

Oscar Wilde, a notoriously flamboyant turn of the 19th-20th century literary figure, once observed: “The only thing worse than being talked about is NOT being talked about!” Meaning that all kinds of reaction to stunts like the McDonald’s sign inversion and the BK temporary re-branding campaign can be considered positive results, in as much as they get people talking about the brand.  So I guess you could say the latest BK stunt has been a resounding success.

But I wonder about those who take their personal gender banding very seriously. Will they let the controversy pass, or will they take their Burger business elsewhere? We’ll have to wait for BK’s Q2 financial report to see how that pans out…

~ Maggie J.