Burger King’s real meals campaign is an embarrassment for marketers

Posted on Posted in How to Guide for Marketers

BK unhappy mealsWhen I first saw Burger King’s #FeelYourWay  campaign idea, I thought it was a joke. To support mental health, Burger King is offering Not-So-Happy Real Meals. Wow. Now that I fully understand the campaign….it really is an embarrassment to marketing.

We are better than this. We have to be.

May is mental health month, and this is Burger King’s attempt to offer their support. Has no one on the BK brand team or agency team known someone who suffers from mental health?

Haven’t we all?

My goodness, mental health is not about getting a nasty text or having someone write a name on your locker. I have known nice, brilliant, beautiful, successful people, who appear to have it all on the outside, suffer from mental health. For many, it is far beyond their control. A non-happy meal just won’t cut it.


Here is the Burger King #FeelYourWay ad



This is a classic problem/solution ad. I felt they did a very good job on the problem set up. Real situations facing the young people of today. But, the solution is rather stupid–a Whopper, fries and a drink–with a cute name on it. Thinking people are “pissed off” really undermines the real issues of mental health. Apparently, every meal, no matter which one you choose, is the same Whopper, fries and a drink.

Last month, Burger King was talking about the “angry” whopper. Maybe someone at 3G needs a mental health seminar, to help them better understand what real people are going through.

Cool stuff does not equate the smart, creative stuff

Every week, we hear about Burger King or Wendy’s doing a lot of “cool stuff”, then we hear advertising people praise them. Neither brand does anything that put more bums in seats or sells more burgers. By the definition of strategy, much effort for a low result is somewhat dumb. It used to be that BK and Wendy’s were battling it out for 2nd place, far behind McDonald’s. They’ve since been passed by Starbucks and Subway, and will soon be passed by Chick-Fil-A and Five Guys.

You have to earn the right to be purpose-driven

We keep seeing creative work that might be good work, which the first half of this ad could be, but it doesn’t fit the brand!!! As we have moved to purpose-driven work, marketers have to realize you have to EARN THE RIGHT to play in a purpose-driven space.

Yes, purpose-driven marketing is in style. However, that doesn’t mean your brand has to do it. Better yet, can do it. A purpose is a core belief that must permeate throughout every fiber of your company. It’s not some ad you run for 750 GRPs.

This year, Gillette wanted to talk about male toxicity. It is the perfect message for our times, but the wrong brand. Gillette spent 50 years as a product-driven brand, with ads talking about the 4th, 5th, 6th, and 7th blade they’ve added. All of a sudden, they wanted to talk about improving the behavior of men. You haven’t earned that right Gillette! BTW, they are back talking about how amazing they are at making blades.

Last year, we saw Nike’s Colin Kaepernick ad, supporting his efforts to speak out about human rights violations and race relations in America. As a brand, Nike has earned this right, supporting other athletes speaking out.

Burger King has not earned the right to have a purpose

Burger King is owned by 3G Capital, the same company which has cut spending, seen significant sales declines and laid off thousands at Kraft-Heinz, Tim Horton’s and Anheuser-Busch InBev. There are no signs this organization is purpose driven. To me, this campaign feels completely exploitive of the mental health movement.

I didn’t realize it at first, but Burger King is also using this opportunity, to take a shot at McDonald’s, who is famous for their Happy Meals. This feels completely exploitive and, rather pathetic. Be better BK.

As a marketer, I know we can be better than this.



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