Murdering Animals or Murdering Audiences?

Gourmet Burger Kitchen has taken down their latest adverts after accusations that they mocked vegetarianism. The hashtag #gourmetmurderkitchen shows how slighted the vegetarian community felt, but whether GBK should feel bad is open to question.  Is it ever okay to alienate an audience?

YES – Daniella Murphy

People pleasers are the worst. You know the sort: lovely to you, lovely to your arch nemeses and saying yes so much there couldn’t possibly be any room for anything principled to come out of their mouth. Get in the sea.

So why expect brands to behave like this?

We call it a target audience because it involves precision. Going for the bullseye means you’re not going for the rest of the board. Or the wall. Or someone’s eye.  We don’t play darts with a net.

Gourmet Burger Kitchen’s target audience are carnivores. The vegan community so quick to wonder “why not us?” and shout about “flesh zombies” on GBK’s Facebook page readily admit “I’ve never eaten here”.  Just as a devoted burger lover is unlikely to find themselves trawling through FreeLee the Banana Girl’s back catalogue, I doubt the staunch veggies who felt excluded would have been planning their next dinner date at Gourmet Murder Kitchen.  They weren’t (and didn’t seem to want to be) part of the gang in the first place. So why worry? Also, some vegetarians *do* give up being  veggie and do have cravings for meat. Some even have a sense of humour. I see nothing wrong with GBK positioning itself here.

I’m all for being nice and I’m all for being inclusive in practice –  I doubt anyone in that office was trying to barricade the doors. GBK were just lightheartedly – if ham(!)fistedly–  playing with their point of difference. They sell meat. To meat eaters.  And those who don’t eat meat are well within their right to use it as a conversation starter and promote their lifestyle, as they did. In fact, I’d say GBK did them a favour.

I’m a veggie myself, and I would have much rather GBK stood their ground. If brands are to be truly likeable, then give me refreshingly self-assured (and even a little obnoxious) over obsequious any day.

NO – Rosie Lewis

Your secondary audience is still your audience.

The most important question for a brand to know the answer to is, ‘who is your audience?’ However, it is highly likely that your brand is speaking to more than one person, sector or age group. This then poses a dilemma, do you speak singularly to your primary audience or try and speak to everyone?

The easiest response is to create a singular message for your primary audience. You can be punchier, create greater cut-through, buzz and awareness. That is the easiest route. Your choice thereafter is whether you alienate the secondary audience in order to speak more effectively to the primary audience.  Do you need to risk – as Gourmet Burger Kitchen has done – alienating a segment of your audience for the benefit of another? Or can you create a platform which is both precise and inclusive?

As creatives, the hardest challenge can be creating a message or platform which has a singular message but speaks to a broad demographic of people. Is it doable? Of course, look no further than brands like John Lewis, McDonald’s or Google Android. The latter’s ad ‘Friends Furever’ became the most shared ad of all time in 2015 with a reported 6.4 million shares. It also perfectly brought to life the brand platform of ‘Together Not The Same’, using animal friendships. Could Android have spoken to the tech geeks, or first time phone purchasers exclusively? Yes, but they choose not to. Their operating system has broad mass appeal and they created a campaign which had the same.

Gourmet Burger Kitchen’s menu includes several pescatarian and vegetarian options, let’s assume this is because of demand. Why intentionally drive away an audience? If they don’t wish to cater to vegetarians they should take a bigger stand and take the options off their menu.

Audiences are complex, varied and diverse. This should be celebrated. As marketeers we must choose the hard route and work harder to create great work which is precise, inclusive, smart and sharable.


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