Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Burger King's Interesting Marketing Campaign

What is targeted marketing? As a retailer, what is fair game when you're going after a particular segment of society? It is cool to talk to one demographic one way and another others a different way? What if those messages are divided amongst race? Interesting questions that have popped up after thumbing through my lastest edition of rap magazine XXL.

In the July 2008 issue, I came across this add for Burger King, which I reproduced here:

Now, you don't need to be a hip-hop head to realize that the term "boss" in this case does not refer to the head of a corporation. In rap terms, this is what a "boss" is (you can turn the sound off, but its the images that are important):

I'll even throw you the pertinant lyrics from the above song:

Who gives a f**k what a hater gotta say?
I made a couple million dollars
last year dealin weight
(ed: weight = cocaine)
Still in da streets strapped with them thangs (ed: strapped = armed with guns)
She in love with a
G so she tatted my name
I'm the biggest boss that ya seen thus

Ten black maybacks back to back in a lane
I'm a make it
rain then I'm a make it back
You are just a lame lil homie that's a fact
Workin with the police actin like ya know me
Fresh outta jail already in
ya hoe's sheets

In the 1990's, it was fashionable in rap to adopt the "mafioso" lifestyle and culture, with their crew being more like the hood version of la costra nostra. Artists started using the terms "Don", "Capo" and, of course "boss." In rap, to be a "boss" means that you were very successful in making money and acquiring power through your activities in the streets.

Now, as you all know, I'm a rap fan, so I'm not particularly fussed by the term. But I'm also not a international fast food chain. And I find it a little odd (although unsurprising) that Burger King would choose to market their food by essentially glamourizing the criminal lifestyle: "Grab a Whopper (TM) and eat like the head of an organized crime family!"

If you want to say that, great - its your ad dollars. But again, is it cool to talk one way to a certain demographic and a different way to some others? You would never see this kind of an ad in People magazine or on TV. Is that right? Or is it just smart targeting? Should Burger King be on the hook for promoting this kind of positive light on criminality?

I understand the folks at BK are only trying to "speak the language" as it were, and "boss" could also mean "someone who runs things", as definted here. But shouldn't they have a much greater understanding and ultimate responsibility for the language and terminology they use?

Are you offended by this kind of an ad and its particular choice of language?

Give me a sign, oh CH readers!

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