Burger King & International Women’s Day: What Can Marketers Learn?

Burger King & International Women’s Day: What Can Marketers Learn?


We’re now more than a week away from International Women’s Day. And what a day it was. A time where we could see every facet of society come together under a joint appreciation and celebration for the women of the world.

And this appreciation showed itself in so many interesting and unique ways as well, from creative video compilations showcasing female talent to company-wide pledges regarding improving diversity and equality in the workplace. All across the board, we’ve seen a variety of innovative marketing uses and contents…and then there was Burger King.

Now, I’m sure you’re probably familiar with the misguided posts by now that have thoroughly circulated the internet over last week, but for those unaware, allow me to get you up to speed.

During the early hours of IWD, the New York Times ran an ad by burger king that centred around the phrase “Women belong in the kitchen”. This was (I guess?) supposed to be a satirical advert designed to both battle stereotypes and highlight the launch of their Burger King’s H.E.R. (Helping Equalize Restaurants) Scholarship.



Now overall, the initial advert didn’t prompt too much of an adverse reaction and was to some level probably interpreted the way the marketers expected… It’s a very clear and apparent twist on an archaic idea which immediately becomes apparent upon reading further.

Whether or not you agree with its particular use in the newspaper is neither here nor there…It’s the tweet thread that followed that brewed up a storm.

With absolutely no context or immediate elaboration given, it didn’t take long for the general public to catch wind of this tweet and voice their displeasure regarding the silliness and misinformed messaging behind the slogan. And while Burger King was quick to apologise, the damage had already been done. The question that remains is… What can marketers learn from Burger King’s mistakes?

Know your platform and cater your messages accordingly

When we reflect on Twitter as a platform in comparison to others, it’s one of the apps that has a more rigid set of rules regarding posting. From the set character limit to the format of Twitter requiring users to create a thread if they want to post a longer message, it’s an app that requires a specific approach when pushing out content. 

“The tweets did draw some negative feedback from people who only read the headline…But hopefully it will continue to shift to positive as people realize the real intent behind it.” – Fernando Machado, Burger King DMO

In thinking about why the campaign backfired on Twitter but was a relative success in the New York Times, the marketers behind the campaign did not adapt the content appropriately for the platform they were posting on, nor did they account for Twitter users differing manner of consuming content. 

Whereas with print media, a reader can see the content immediately through a full-page ad spread, Twitter in comparison invites a much more passive experience for users whereby they will quickly scroll through the platform and see the start of a thread but not necessarily the full details. 

As marketing continues to evolve across the social media age, marketing practitioners must remain proactive towards its use and vigilant towards the possibility of content drawing adverse reactions. This proactiveness in the case of Burger King could have been simply trialling your content in-house first to see if your target demographic (Women in this case) is receptive towards the messaging. Regardless, it’s about staying ahead of the curve and aware of possibilities such as this arising.

And while their approach following the incident was fairly correct (Apologising quickly and owning up to their error), it's an embarrassing faux pas that serves as an interesting cautionary tale to us all regarding the harm that can be caused by miss-marketing content.