Q45 Do you have an example of a cause marketing campaign that seemed like a good idea at the time and then faced public backlash?
Mental Health Awareness is something that is near to my heart. When my stepdaughter, Noelle, passed away in 2018, she had studied psychology. Because she was a big advocate for breaking mental health stigma, we asked family and friends to donate to a mental health organization, National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), in her memory. Asking people to give was tied directly to our purpose and values in remembrance of my stepdaughter.
Brands need to approach their cause marketing from a place of purpose and values. When Burger King launched its campaign #FeelYourWay during Mental Health Awareness Month, it appeared to have good intentions around an important topic. However, here is where their cause marketing efforts suffered in the eyes of the public.
First, Burger King’s mission did not reflect the mental health and wellbeing of its customers. Its mission statement talks about good quality food, served quickly in a friendly environment. In the eyes of Burger King’s customers, it was a bit of a stretch to focus on mental health. There was a disconnect and the comments on social media, especially Twitter, did not reflect the campaign focus and the company’s overall focus. Some tweets were kind, pointing out that it was fine for Burger King to support when people feel unhappy. However, they didn’t understand why a fast-food company was capitalizing on marketing mental health issues.
Then came another kind of backlash that Burger King did not expect from their cause marketing campaign. Past Burger King employees joined the conversation to share how Burger King did not provide mental health insurance. One former employee wrote in his tweet sharing his #truestory. From his experience and words, when he asked his boss at Burger King for a day off to see his therapist, the boss allegedly replied, “Either you work the hours you’re scheduled, or you’re fired.” The message in the tweet (whether captured accurately or not by the former employee) certainly did not match the intended cause marketing messages and the campaign to support mental health awareness.4
Marketing teams come up with creative campaigns all the time. You, as the Ethical Marketer, and ethical cause marketer, have to really think past the idea to visualize how all parts will be received by your customers and other stakeholders. Aligning to the right cause based on your values is one of the first questions you should ask, so you avoid becoming the next Burger King in question or cause marketing #Fail on social media, regardless of your good intentions.