On March 8th, International Women’s Day, a tweet from Burger King went viral — for all the wrong reasons.
Intended to highlight the fact that only a small percentage of chefs in the UK are women, the tweet instead came across as sexist and insensitive, raising backlash on and off the internet.
The brand has since apologized and deleted the tweet, stating that they will do better. But the damage has been done and will likely cause a negative impact on the fast food chain that had recently garnered positive attention after their widely-acclaimed visual rebrand. The fiasco serves as a cautionary tale for other brands and content creators. Here are a few lessons we can learn from Burger King’s blunder.
Some brands have set the precedent for using a quirky, irreverent tone in their communications, Burger King’s competitor Wendy’s being a prime example. Their Twitter feed is full of playful jabs and snarky comments that has gained them over 3 million followers. But sarcasm is a tricky thing to convey online, and if not done well, can lead to disastrous results. Social media has evolved its own linguistic styles and syntax and knowing how to use them properly is vital. Ending this tweet with an ellipsis, for example, would have given it an entirely different meaning.
The line posted in the infamous tweet began its life as a headline in a print ad announcing culinary school scholarships, as shared by Fernando Machado, global chief marketing officer for Burger King’s parent company, Restaurant Brands International.
When seen in print the headline is still questionable, but has the visual cue of the additional text to clue the reader in that there is more to the story. With this context it is clearer that the brand is trying to uplift women rather than oppress them.
Understanding your medium is important because, as happened here, using the same copy in two different styles of publication can lead to wildly different results. Twitter wasn’t built for long-form storytelling. Even with the threading feature, posts are truncated by a character limit and are individually sharable, meaning it’s incredibly easy to take tweets out of context. It’s crucial to have different content strategies across different platforms rather than repurposing across the board.
Burger King’s apology led with three important words: We hear you. Listening with an open mind when confronted with a correction is essential to growth as a better, more inclusive communicator. A consumer-facing brand is ultimately beholden to the consumers, and listening to feedback from your audience — and most importantly, learning from it — is key.
The second sentence in the apology was equally important: We got our initial tweet wrong and we’re sorry. Acknowledging the misstep and apologizing, rather than being defensive, is important to keeping up your relationship with your audience. But don’t just stop there — make the commitment to do better and implement changes based on the experience.
Social media is a tool that takes strategy and expertise. When used properly, your message will be amplified and reach the right audience. If used incorrectly, the impact can be intense. Our team can help put together a strategy that helps you communicate your message and skip the Burger King Blunders. Let us help.