International Women’s Day 2021- Brand Engagement and Campaign Successes and Fails

Image: Ted Ed.

Firstly… Happy International Women’s Day!

I thought, for today’s blog, I would do something a little bit different to usual and share my personal favourite and least favourite International Women’s Day 2021 campaigns.

Whilst reading about many amazing and inspiring women on social media over the course of today, it has been evident that many brands and organisations have also been trying to engage with International Women’s Day, with varying success.

Burger King’s controversial International Women’s Day Campaign. Image: Twitter.

The first campaign, which one could argue has been the most controversial today, was Burger King’s “women belong in the kitchen” Tweet (pictured above). Shock was the clear motive behind this Tweet, to encourage Twitter users to actually read the whole Twitter thread which highlighted gender inequality within the chef profession, and detailed Burger King’s new scholarship programme aiding females’ progression within the industry. However shock, and horror, was provoked by this ill-judged campaign, with many Twitter users expressing their anger at Burger King’s mistake. It is understandable that Burger King were using a shock factor to draw attention to gender inequality within the industry,  however this was evidently not the way to go about it.

Shockingly, the initial, controversial Tweet gained significantly more likes than the subsequent Tweets on the thread which were discussing gender inequality issues within the industry- at time of writing, the “women belong in the kitchen” tweet has gained 544,000 likes, whereas the gender inequality tweet gained 117,000 and the final tweet about the scholarship programme gained 73,000 likes. Does this show that Burger King’s intention to address gender inequality has actually been unsuccessful, and this campaign has actually just encouraged people to talk about Burger King as a brand? I am sure Burger King did not expect this campaign to backfire in such a way, however was it really wise for them to this? They are not new to Twitter, and therefore should have considered that Tweets further down the thread may not have been read if users had only seen the initial tweet on their newsfeeds.

Burger King’s defence of their campaign. Image: Twitter.

Obviously, Burger King were not intent on using International Women’s Day to fuel gender stereotyping, in fact they were trying to do the opposite and contribute towards increasing gender equality within their industry. After calls to delete the Tweet, their response defended their campaign (pictured above), and illustrated their somewhat controversial idea had worked to spark a discussion about gender inequality within their industry. Burger King’s heart may have been in the right place, and it is great that they are using a global event to illustrate what they are doing to improve gender inequality within their organisation. Surely, though, there was a much better way for Burger King to highlight the very important issue they were trying to raise, without offending many Twitter users and sparking a negative debate about gender. After all, isn’t International Women’s Day about celebrating women, and promoting gender equality, not bringing up outdated and offensive stereotypes?

Williams’ International Women’s Day campaign. Image: Twitter.

One organisation who I feel have created a successful campaign this International Women’s Day is Formula 1 team, Williams (pictured above). Williams have historically been unique in paving the way for tacking gender inequality in a male-dominated sport, with Williams having had a female deputy team principle, Claire Williams, up until last season. In 2014, Susie Wolff, Williams’ former test driver, was the first woman since 1992 to compete in a Formula 1 weekend and Williams’ current development driver, Jamie Chadwick, won the first series of the W Series in 2019. Although much more needs to be, and will be, done to improve gender equality within Formula 1 in particular, Williams are challenging stereotypes within the industry and promoting change for the better. Their International Women’s Day campaign recognised the need to tackle gender inequality within the sport and showcased Williams’ collective support of and pledge to #ChooseToChallenge (the official theme of International Women’s Day 2021). I feel the real success of this campaign was using testimonials from employees, as it demonstrated a collective passion to tackle gender inequality within the team. Furthermore, their call to do “so much more” is all the more meaningful, given Williams’ dedication to empowering women within Formula 1.  

Williams’ commitment to empowering women in motorsport. Image: Twitter.

Although both campaigns were trying to raise awareness of the prevalence of gender inequality within their respective industries, Burger King and Williams took two very different approaches, with varying success. As you are probably aware from seeing the various International Women’s Day posts first-hand on social media, today is the day for celebrating women, and highlighting what needs to be done to tackle social issues like gender inequality and the gender pay gap. However, using shock tactics and ill-judged ‘humour’ by tweeting an outdated gender stereotype really isn’t going to help with celebrating women and tackling issues women face… and judging by the comments Burger King have received on Twitter, they may pay the price in the coming days with fewer sales.

What do you think to this year’s International Women’s Day campaigns- do you know of any campaigns that you feel have been hugely successful or unsuccessful? Also, do you think that Burger King’s campaign was ill-judged, or do you think it was actually successful in drawing attention to gender inequality despite its controversy?

Thank you for reading!  

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