How do you create a YouTube video that gets your brand 2,835,621 views within 48 hours, and becomes the talk of the ad-world overnight? Brand activism, that’s how.
Burger King‘s “Whopper Neutrality” video is a humorous yet pointed take on the FCC’s decision in December to repeal Net Neutrality:
Here’s how Burger King explains it:
The “Save Net Neutrality” petition on Change.org now has 2,298,472 signatories, with a goal of 3 million.
Why Activism? Why Now?
Critics are calling this a “branding exercise,” an opportunity for “marketing departments that see in every social and political cause du jour an opportunity for 15 minutes of web infamy.”
The times they are, indeed, a-changing. The World Economic Forum calls this the New Age of CEO activism. In The New CEO Activists, Aaron K. Chatterji and Michael W. Toffel make an important point: the more CEOs speak up on social and political issues, the more they will be expected to do so. And increasingly, CEO activism has strategic implications: In the Twitter age, silence is more conspicuous.
And in CEO Activism in 2017: High Noon in the C-Suite, a survey measuring attitudes toward the trend of chief executive officers (CEOs) speaking out on hot-button societal topics, we see a generational divide. An that’s the reason why we are going to see more brands take the activist road. According to the research, 47 percent of Millennials (ages 18-36) believe CEOs have a responsibility to speak up about issues that are important to society. Only 28 percent of Gen Xers (ages 37-52) and Boomers (ages 53-71) agree. Millennials also see this as a growing responsibility — more than half (56 percent) say CEOs have a greater responsibility today to take a stance on hot button issues than they used to.
Most importantly, the study found, CEO activism has the potential to positively affect Millennials’ purchase decisions. Half of Millennials (51%) say they would be more likely to buy from a company led by a CEO who speaks out on an issue they agree with. CEO activism is thus a new motivator in the purchase consideration set.
Two-thirds of those who are aware of CEO activism (66%), or 24% of all Americans, have taken some action, positive or negative, based on a CEO’s stance on an issue.
How does this data fit into Burger King’s “activism”?
Restaurants like Chipotle, Panera and Noodles & Company have been catering to Millennials. This just may be a way for Burger King to get a few to come back, or perhaps, try a Whopper for the very first time.
Madison Bloom is the nom de plume of a branding executive based in San Francisco.