‘Burger King controversy proves Western brands need more local knowledge’, says marketing professor

The controversy surrounding a recent ad for Burger King is a sign that Western brands need to infuse more local knowledge into their global strategies, said Warwick Business School professor of marketing Qing Wang, a China-born British academic.

Created for Burger King New Zealand, the ad for Vietnamese sweet chilli tender crisp burger appeared on the brand’s Instagram page.

It soon found itself at the centre of accusations of racism and cultural insensitivity, for depicting people struggling to eat a burger with chopsticks.

Burger King withdrew the ad and apologised, but Wang wondered at the frequency with which such culturally insensitive advertising passed the checks and balances that are presumably in place, citing the controversy generated by a recent ad from Dolce & Gabanna

She said: “We have seen such a long list of adverts that have caused outrage, you start to wonder whether these brands have lost touch with public sentiment.

“A common thread that runs through many of these controversies are the stereotypes that these adverts have invoked about ethnic communities.”

Professor Qing Wang

She added: “While the controversies themselves may come and go, they not only leave a bad taste in the mouth, they leave consumers starting to question whether these adverts are deliberately racist.

“Last year, Dolce and Gabbana cancelled its Shanghai fashion show amid similar accusations of racism after posting videos of a Chinese model eating Italian food with chopsticks.

“That led to a severe backlash in China. It is hard to believe that Burger King has now made the same mistake.

“It is clear that Western brands need to infuse more local knowledge into their global strategies.”

The backlash has been particularly severe on the brand’s Vietnam Facebook page with #BurgerKingGetOutOfVietnam showing up on some posts, users urging each other to rate the company with a single star.

However, going by its official website for Vietnam, Burger King has only 10 outlets in the country.


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