Burger chain GBK removes polarising ads for succeeding in polarising
Gourmet Burger Kitchen (GBK) launched a series of communications across London Underground stations this week which included tag-lines such as “Vegetarians, resistance is futile,” “They eat grass so you don’t have to,” and “You’ll always remember when you gave up being a vegetarian.”
It’s impossible to imagine any rationale behind these ads other than to polarise and spark reaction. Beyond their message, they were launched on a Monday, at a time totally juxtaposed with other significant and growing movement:
- Veganuary, which encourages people to give up animal products for January and has seen a four-fold surge in search interest since Jan 2015.
- Meat free Monday, a trend that’s seen stable growth since September 2014 #meatfreemonday which has nearly 50,000 posts on Instagram and counting…
On cue, vegetarians, vegans and food lovers alike this week began a boycott against UK burger chain. Ever since the adverts were shared on a vegan Facebook page, many people have taken to Twitter to complain to GBK with the hashtag #GourmetMurderKitchen, which rose to become a trending topic on Twitter and complaints have also been made to the Advertising Standards Authority.
GBK provoked, consumers reacted:
People thought it was simply bad marketing:
Clear feelings that the brand were excluding vegetarians and vegans:
Many voiced the inappropriateness of a national chain for mocking a minority:
You have also reinforced the stigma behind vegan diets, poked fun at animal suffering and pissed your customers off #gourmetmurderkitchen
But equally there was a mix of real positivity from fans and assumably the core loyalists of
‘Great advertising GBK. Don’t give into the whining!’
#GBK has a lot of vegetarians taking themselves way too seriously. I thought the posters were quite funny
I found the GBK adverts funny, and vegetarians are 100x mrs preachy about their eating habits than carnivores but whatever
Don't worry GBK, I'll have an extra burger for the over sensitive #nom
You can question a strategy of poking fun at vegetarians as a technique to get people talking. Burgers are beyond saturation point in London, with new chains, pop ups, food trucks, high end burger joints, American burger brands and more unique stand alone stores opening by the week in London and spreading across the UK. At present the UK burger market is valued at over £3bn and consumers are paralysed by choice. Equally given that so much of the gourmet burger space growth has been about identity (what eating here says about me), in the wake of this news will vegetarians and meat eaters alike feel as comfortable sharing an Instagram geo-located with GBK?
But this was a campaign about polarising, and in immediately removing the communications because of negative reaction from a cohort who likely over index on brand rejectors, feels nervous, shaky, a brand unsure of what it stands for – it’s incomprehensible that you’d ever see such a reaction from a cult brand like Nandos or Chipotle.
Ultimately online is uniquely good at delivering polarities of extremes of opinion – both the good and the bad. Brands increasingly need a plan at the heart of their campaigns for such extremes of reaction when launching a campaign.
- Article by Holly Dellamura and Lee Fordham