How Burger King flame-broiled its reputation with purposeful miscommunication

by | Apr 13, 2021 | Analysis, Public Relations

During its International Women’s Day campaign, Burger King UK landed in news headlines because of the company’s interesting and controversial marketing campaign choice. It happened in a single tweet that caused the public to react quickly, where the burger chain decided to use a sexist trope as a form of clickbait. The goal of the entire campaign was to highlight the gender imbalance in the restaurant industry.

Unfortunately, this ultimate goal ended up getting lost in all the chaos. Because of the ensuing outrage, Burger King quickly decided to delete its original tweet and apologize for it, while explaining the goal of the provoking tweet. Unfortunately, people were already angry at the food chain.

These days, with the number of people online, it’s increasingly easy for brands to damage their reputation—which is why companies have to understand what their audiences value, and to create messages around those values. To avoid situations similar to Burger King’s, customers should continuously be engaged in an authentic manner. Companies should avoid causing outrage and chaos of the type that can lead to a PR crisis.

How Burger King flame-broiled its reputation with purposeful miscommunication

Target audience

As Alexei Orlov of MTM has noted, “At this point, every brand and corporation knows the importance of knowing the target audience. However, companies tend to focus on surface-level information such as demographics and location, so this info doesn’t really apply to campaign messages.”

When consumers are making buying decisions companies should be considering what their audience really cares about. And they need to do this before creating a marketing campaign. Brands should have a full understanding of the target audience’s values, the things they prefer talking about, the topics they’re passionate about, and what they support. This way, companies will be able to develop a better understanding and avoid potential miscommunications.


Nearly all consumers prefer making purchases from companies that have demonstrated the same or similar values as them, which means marketing campaigns can’t rely on attention-grabbing tricks or catchy slogans. Taking the information that companies can learn from the previous point, the purpose of a campaign can be created with meaning that relates to the target audience.

Additionally, when companies consistently highlight their values across their brand, consumers have an easier time making a connection and ultimately a purchase from that company. Although it can be time-consuming to pay so much attention to what a target audience cares about, it’s important for companies to do so because that way they’re able to build a strong community of supporters and prevent any misunderstandings from happening.


Finally, in cases where miscommunications do happen, which can sometimes be inevitable, it’s important to always be prepared with a quick response.

When those instances happen, the easiest way to take control of the narrative is to keep track of the conversation online and to prepare positive messaging during a campaign’s development. This technique can mitigate any negative situation.

Ronn Torossian
Ronn Torossian is the Founder and Chairman of 5W Public Relations: 5WPR is one of the 20 largest PR Firms in the United States.