Burger King is toasted for its “Ladies belong within the kitchen” advert
The eye-catching message, of course, is a variation on the old sexist adage that a woman’s place is in the apartment. Its origin is said to be the Greek playwright Aeschylus, who lived in 467 BC. Chr. Decree: “Let women stay at home and keep their peace.”
Since then, the set has been tweaked by many feminists. You can find t-shirts that announce that a woman’s place is “in the revolution” or “in the laboratory”. Hillary Clinton’s failed 2016 presidential campaign included a pin cushion that read, “A woman’s place is in the White House.”
A much more enlightened restriction soon followed in Burger King’s marketing: “If you want, of course.” The burger vendor continued to notice the shortage of female cooks and set up its scholarships to increase the number of women in the profession.
Though some defended the company’s attempt at humor, the fast-food chain was toasted like a flame-fried patty, mostly by women. For marketers, the move was another example of a company’s good intentions going very wrong.
Unlike some brands with a track record of weighing issues, Burger King doesn’t have the “cultural capital” necessary to get its message across the ring of gender disparity authentic, says Linda Tuncay Zayer, marketing professor at Quinlan School of Business from Loyola University Chicago. “Burger King has no authority on gender equality and then you associate that with a bad trope and it was a recipe for disaster.”
In contrast, she pointed to Nike, which has received praise and loyalty for its advertising campaigns that support the Black Lives Matter movement and promote black and female athletes.
Burger King actually has a history of sexist advertising, notes Susan Dobscha, professor of marketing at Bentley University: The chain apologized in 2018 for giving Russian women who become pregnant by World Cup players a lifetime in a social media post Supply of Whoppers aimed to “ensure the success of the Russian team for generations to come”.
“The company doesn’t have a solid leg to adopt a great gender stance, and the legs they have are shaky,” says Dobscha. “That makes a difference. When you get into a gender problem and fail, people forgive. But if you failed before, you will face a higher level of skepticism. “
And they say that while the new ad is in line with Burger King’s brand personality, which may seem cheeky and disrespectful, it’s important for companies to time their advertising. The current climate is a global pandemic that has disproportionately cost women jobs.
“You can still use humor, but use a misogynist image to grab eyeballs – it’s just not the cultural moment to do so,” says Zayer.
And as for another store-borne adage – that there is no such thing as bad advertising – well, if you ever had any, it outlived its usefulness, they say. “People used to say that, but now we have data and we know that there is such a thing as bad advertising,” says Dobscha. “And that it can ruin your brand forever.”