For Pride Month, fast food giant Burger King Austria took to Instagram and unveiled the “Pride Whopper,” which it will sell until June 20. It is the same normal hamburger sandwich, but with “two equal buns,” which means you can get it with ether two top halves or two bottom halves.
While this campaign is only running in Austria, it has attracted attention on social media throughout the world – including the almost expected backlash.
“The ad is definitely ‘cheeky’ to make people smile, however it does leave room for interpretation,” said Angelica Gianchandani, practitioner in residence for the brand marketing and the executive MBA programs at the University of New Haven. “The two tops to bottoms (same-sex buns) campaign is being promoted in the Austrian marketplace for Pride Month. Burger King is standing behind the cause and going the distance to reconfigure BKs flagship burger which is an investment and commitment as it disrupts the process of building the burger. The BK campaign in the U.S. market will only implement a rainbow flag wrapping.
“BK has good intentions standing behind equal rights,” Gianchandani added. “BKs brand is not known to be ‘cheeky, smart, and clever.’ The intention is to be playful, and the campaign has caught customers off guard.”
On Twitter, it seemed to even confuse some.
Buzzfeed editor Jarett Wieselman (@JarettSays) tweeted, “Burger King Austria made a Pride burger that’s either two tops or two bottoms… what in straight hell?”
“Burger King has introduced a new ‘Pride Whopper’ where you can order it with two tops or two bottoms of buns. What a strange advertisement. I’ll take my Whopper with a regular bun because ordering fast food doesn’t need to be a political statement for me,” tweeted author and political commentator Brigitte Gabriel (@ACTBrigitte).
While few on social media have actually threatened to boycott Burger King, there has still been a fair amount of negativity over the campaign – but that seems par for the course with any brand today. Clearly there can be “bad press” despite what the public relations world has long said.
“I have never believed in that old clichéd statement that there is no such thing as bad press,” said Scott Talan, assistant professor of communication at the American University.
“What we’ve seen is that social media is certainly critical of every companies’ ad campaigns,” explained Talen. “You might think you have the best thing since sliced bread, but consumers are more concerned with your brand in a way like never before. It isn’t just about your products and services but your brand.”
It is unlikely anyone will forego their Whopper fix this summer, yet a regional campaign has garnered international attention – and could impact the American market.
“The question is going to be how many people might be offended, and how offended they actually are,” Talen continued. “That is what the question becomes: will this gain more customers and build brand loyalty, or whether it will result in a loss of regular customers.”
It is increasingly hard for companies not to face scrutiny, especially in the era where someone will always take offense. A failure to acknowledge a holiday or occurrence can be alienating to some, while others will find any mention to playing to niche markets.
“With this campaign, I’m not fully sure if those at Burger King even knew how this might play out,” said Talen. “Conservatives may be offended, but if a restaurant opened with a big cross in the window, some people wouldn’t want to go there.”