In recent years, although we are living in a modern world, where people are more open and sympathetic, there is still a struggle for equal rights. Through gender, race and now sexual orientation. People around the world face violence and inequality—and sometimes torture, even execution—because of whom they love, how they look, or who they are.
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Sexual orientation and gender identity are integral aspects of ourselves and should never lead to discrimination or abuse (Human Rights Watch, 2013). Basically, we are all different in particular ways, but we are the same inside. A guy or a girl, black or white, gay or straight, no matter how dissimilar we are, we are still humans and we have hearts. Therefore, society should embrace diversity and protect human equal rights for each and every single person. Nowadays, it has become more common for some of the biggest consumer brands to show their support for social causes in order to keep up with mounting pressure to reflect progressive and inclusionary ideologies. In fact, the brand that frequently comes out in supporting LGBT issues, such as Amazon or Starbucks, or has chosen and boosted morale LGBT representatives, such as JCPenney, is tend to have more support from the consumers, can easily rise up in the competitive market and build their own brand recognition followed with the rise of the customers’ loyalty.
In 2014, Burger King garnered a considerable amount of media buzz following a campaign that boldly expressed their support for the community. As a celebration of gay pride, Miami-based Burger King has decided to have their own story of selling the “Proud Whopper” – a limited gay pride-themed burger comes in a rainbow-colored wrapper, and a matching crown in San Francisco in 2014 (Doss, 2014). To capture their customers’ reactions, they filmed the experiences of them while ordering and eating the burger. No long after the campaign was introduced, it caused curiosity and eagerness to find out what was so different about this burger. Burger fans were racing to grab those ‘proud’ burgers from that San Francisco’s Burger King whose campaign with the recordings of the customers’ reactions were used to make a Youtube video that went viral (Horovitz, 2014). This “Proud Whopper” campaign has introduced a ‘special type’ of burger with a message of equality in a limited period of time and only available at one Burger King restaurant in San Francisco through July 3, 2014, but this was only the beginning of the company making a strong statement in support of the LGBT community (Doss, 2014). The campaign based on the social exchange theory which states that social behavior is the outcome of an exchange process. The purpose of this exchange is to aggrandize benefits and minimize costs. Basically, a Proud Whopper is just an ordinary daily Burger King’s whopper, the only difference was its wrapping. Therefore, they do not need to spend money on creating a new kind of whopper, just a tiny cost to make the wrapper with a hidden message. When customers unwrapped the Proud Whopper, they were courteously overwhelmed to find out that the Whoppers tasted exactly the same, but the wrapping paper revealed a rainbow flag with a message on that said: “We are all the same inside”. The Proud Whopper wrapper became a souvenir, a collector’s item for sale to the highest bidder, a badge of hope, a single design piece that took over social media and mass media publications.
The tendencies of the Proud Whopper campaign brings to mind that there was qualitative research carried out that mainly focused on the under 35 age group, largely 18 to 24 years old and those part of the LGBT community. This interest has to do with consumer brands spreading their exertions to attract and raise the loyalty of millennials who will soon become the most influential group of consumers on the market (Digital Training Academy, 2017). To find out the type of content they needed to put out in order to draw attention from these groups, Burger King needed to carry on qualitative research to obtain an understanding of how they could incite a response in this particular demographic. According to a 2015 market research study published by Moosylvania (2015), an advertising and marketing agency, millennials observe into consuming from businesses that they believe to be socially responsible. The millennial generation is considered to be the most warmhearted and socially aware age group, and because of this, they prefer to give their business to brands that assistance the social movements that they care about in order to feel better about themselves. Brands that illustrate messages of inclusion, diversity, and acceptance are more likely to make a hit with young people and this market trend has not gone ignored by advertising, marketing, and public relations directors (Mass Media and Education, 2015). Since the recognition of this behavior among millennials has become more known in the corporate world, Burger King could have also relied on secondary research to conduct this campaign. They weren’t the first to convey their support for the LGBT community, and they certainly haven’t been the last. Approach to previously public information on market behaviors, analysis, trends, and effects could have easily allowed for Burger King to fall into the bandwagon effect of companies increasing their efforts to illustrate a progressive image to appeal to millennials. Apart from the demographics had mentioned before, Burger King also has stakeholders that it needs to consider before starting any campaign. A corporate social responsibility (CSR) analysis conducted by the Panmore Institute (2017) classified Burger King’s stakeholders from the most priority arrangements to least ones as; customers, employees, communities, and investors. These stakeholders could fit into the demographics that were mainly targeted for this ‘whopper’ campaign. Customers, employees, and communities will have direct responses to the business’s image and any campaign that is introduced by them is in relation to them, whether they fit into the targeted groups or not. Even with investors who belong to those demographics, they are still influenced by the campaign because they need to observe their expenses investing in something that is being received well by other stakeholders.
On the local level, the Proud Whopper campaign’s main objective was to engage with their guests and to give back to the community by taking part in the LGBT Pride festivities. On a business level, Burger King wanted to showcase itself as a brand that promotes self-expression. Actually, Proud Whopper campaign was a part of a bigger campaign that changed Burger King’s distinguished slogan from “Have It Your Way” to a new tagline “Be Your Way”. Burger King’s local and business objectives were both attitudinal and informational because it unveiled a local public to their message of self-expression and by publishing a video of their local efforts to demonstrate the message on a broader scale. By this way, they are rebranding themselves and trying to make the public see them as a more forward-thinking brand. Although this wasn’t aforementioned to be an objective of the company, when a brand looking forward to rebranding itself it usually stays connected to a certain customer base, in this case, it is the millennials.
Burger King had chosen to launch the campaign in San Francisco, a city that is known for having a large proportion of the LGBT presence during the LGBT Pride Month with strategically thought about the timing and context on how to deliver their message and exposure to the LGBT community with the Proud Whopper. The Proud Whopper campaign pursued the “Be Your Way” campaign in order to stay coordinated with their promotion of self-expression and reinforce the clarity of the message behind their rebranding. They depend heavily on social media to spread the message out. Instead of distributing the colorful Proud Whopper wrappers to all of their stations, they chose to keep it in one store and have their straightforward customer reactions recorded to a short video that was uploaded to Youtube and was shared across different social media platforms by the audiences. The campaign became a trending topic on Twitter, Instagram, etc. with its own hashtag. Through its popularity on social media, the campaign went through several processes and concepts of communication that got it going viral. Using the two-step flow theory of communication the video was shared from one to the another. Whether it was shared along with any response, the post was keep being shared, thus enlarging the number of impressions. It’s also a campaign that has caused a controversy because of the deep ramification in public opinion it provokes. The objectives that Burger King had for its Proud Whopper were suitable because they were mostly aiming to alter their prior image in the minds of the public by being related in worthy social causes. The main objective wasn’t to receive a palpable boost in sales but to create brand loyalty and trust so that they can reposition themselves in the minds of consumers the next time they are deciding on a fast-food restaurant to eat at.
In conclusion, the data to evaluate for this type of campaign is the amount and attention that it received from the public, and critics. It gathered over about 1.1 billion impressions worth $21 million of earned media, 7 million views on the campaign video, 450,000 blogs have mentioned about the campaign and was the top one trending topic on Twitter and Facebook in one week. Some customers have done way more than just by eating the Proud Whopper to bolster the campaign, they put the limited-edition wrappers online for a sale and pricing them more than a thousand dollars. It was positively reviewed by several media like The New York Times, The Huffington Post, The Wall Street Journal, etc. It started as a local event that draws national attention and was marked in both LGBT and mainstream media outlets. The campaign surely a success for Burger King on sending out a message that it wanted to rebrand itself into a socially aware company and changing the way people looked at this fast-food chain.
Through the progress of researching for this campaign analysis as well as 5 weeks of attending the Foundations of Public Relations course, I have gained for myself new lessons, new discoveries in terms of a public relations perspective. I have learned the importance of PR for businesses, knowing that building and maintaining the reputation and the brand image is a difficult and challenging task, but equally attractive. This course is precise, it helps me to absorb more information that I have never known before. However, the course seems to have plenty of theories to learn and it made me suffocate while studying too many provisions. I like how my teacher arranges the group work and discussion, it is easier to catch up through the activities. I also appreciate the teacher’s effort, help and reminders for our class’s assignment. In this essay, by addressing the issue about equality for the LGBT community showed me that although there are still some constant discriminations toward the LGBT, the breakthrough of LGBT acceptance from our society in the past years displays that equality for these individuals is highly obtainable in the near future. In my own point of view, I believe that Burger King and its PR team have done an absolutely good job of promoting the campaign. Many were touched by the gesture and gained respect toward the Burger King company for taking a big-hearted stance on this controversial issue. Proud Whopper was a great campaign, but I hope it can be further expanded, not only focusing on the LGBT community but also towards the equality for everyone around the globe.
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