Out of Scope Issue 68: Pride month pitfalls
Burger King’s Pride Whopper and proposed new Texas legislation for drag shows
This week we look at rising costs and the messaging conundrum faced by government officials, a Burger King mishap, the decline of Clubhouse, and Velveeta nail polish. Let’s get to it.
💡ON OUR MINDS
ICYMI (but how could you at this point?), the U.S. is facing some serious inflation - the fastest rising prices since the 1980s, with more than 8% increases in the past year.
Americans are scrambling to make ends meet and demanding results from their representatives all the way up to the U.S. government. But as Elaine Kamarck, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, put it, “For a president, inflation is the problem from hell — you can’t win. Because it’s so difficult economically, politically, it is even worse: There’s nothing you can do in the short run to solve it.”
Gas prices -- a popular topic cited when discussing inflation -- are soaring, hitting $5, $6, and even $7 in parts of the country. History shows that sentiment around inflation could directly impact perceptions of the incumbent political party and their success in the midterm elections. The years 2006 and 2018 were tough years for incumbents, with 37% and 22% increases in gas prices, respectively - and 2022 is seeing a 59% increase.
So how do you message an unsolvable crisis and come out on top?
Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen took the “well look at it this way” approach, telling Congress: “Inflation is absolutely a problem, and it’s critical to address it. But I think at the same time, we should recognize how successful that plan was in leading to an economy where instead of having a large number of workers utterly unable to find jobs, exactly the opposite is true.”
White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre took the spread-the-blame approach, noting, “[Inflation] is something that everyone is feeling across the globe.”
Biden has prioritized efforts to increase electric car uptake in the U.S., and some might think now is a good time to switch energy sources - but is it possible the future of electric cars has been messaged *too* well? One WSJ reporter took a four-day road trip in an electric rental and found the charging infrastructure lacking, spending more time charging the car than sleeping.
Even the pandemic era bump in tipping might be over thanks to inflation - while consumers may have been generous with their delivery drivers and waitstaff in the past two years, many consumers may find the “tip 22%?” prompts are getting harder to stomach with rising prices across the board.
🏆 BRAND FAIL OF THE WEEK: Burger King
Burger King Austria’s failed attempt to support Pride Month sparked a wave of criticism on social media for “rainbow washing.”
The brand took to Instagram to announce the launch of its “Pride Whopper,” which is essentially the same hamburger they serve on a regular basis. The difference? This installment will be served with two “equal buns,” offering customers the option of two top or bottom buns.
A Burger King spokesperson told the New York Post, “The Equal Buns campaign was executed by our Burger King Austria team, in an effort to highlight equal rights and equal love — through a play on the traditional Whopper build — featuring two identical buns on the two options of the sandwich.”
Although the campaign launched in Austria, it has caused a global backlash. Social media users are calling the move “tone-deaf” and “lazy.”
So what’s the takeaway? Everyone loves a big idea in marketing, but it’s essential to consider how key audiences will interpret the move - especially when it’s intended for an extremely online audience.
📡 ON OUR RADAR
What’s driving the perception among Americans that we are a divided, downwardly mobile society? In addition to hard facts like inflation and gas prices, 64% of Americans point to the source of perception itself, in the form of social media platforms, as a major driver of division.
Elon Musk recently threatened to end his deal to buy Twitter after accusing the company of withholding information on the number of spam and fake accounts on the platform. According to recent reports, Twitter plans to grant Elon access to its entire “firehose” of data that encompasses hundreds of millions of Tweets per day.
It’s been two weeks since the horrific mass shooting at Robb Elementary in Uvalde, Texas. Actor, father of three, and son of a kindergarten teacher, Matthew McConaughey, grew up in Uvalde. After visiting his hometown and speaking with victims’ families last week, McConaughey wrote an op-ed and spoke at a White House briefing on Tuesday. His message: we must make the loss of these lives matter with more gun regulations and mental health resources.
Meanwhile, one Texas lawmaker announced plans to introduce a bill to ban minors from attending drag shows in the state after a family-friendly drag show in Dallas went viral last week. The timing has been called out by many on social media, noting both the current LGBTQ Pride Month festivities and the recent shootings in Uvalde.
Is it finally time to end the reign of terror of the non-punctuated “can we talk” -type messages? HBR published a piece exploring the use of emojis in the workplace, noting that “they can help clarify meaning behind digital communications, as well as the type and strength of emotions being expressed,” while cautioning about the potential cultural and generational divides on emoji interpretation.
In similar news, a new study came out on the psychology of fonts, confirming that fonts are subjective and can mean different things to different people. But considering how polarizing a font like Comic Sans can be, the emotional power of a font is nothing to underestimate.
Recent happenings at Clubhouse, the live social audio platform that hit peak popularity in 2020, confirm that the company is heading in the direction we at Hirsch Leatherwood felt was inevitable. With many executives leaving and an 80% drop in downloads year-over-year, it seems that Clubhouse wasn’t able to capture a long-term audience for their app that generated excitement for a new way to socialize during quarantine.
Superstar gymnasts, Simone Biles, Aly Raisman, McKayla Maroney, and more than 90 other women are suing the FBI for more than $1 billion for mishandling accusations against the former doctor and convicted serial child molester Larry Nassar. The group of women have spoken out, testified, and are certain the FBI had the power to stop Nassar but failed.
It’s been over 110 days since WNBA star Brittney Griner has been wrongfully detained in Russia. The influential voices of the NBA are getting involved and a petition is being circulated to urge the White House and Biden Administration to take action.
In case you missed these stories this week.
Tennis superstar Rafael Nadal reinforces his reputation as the “King of Clay with another Roland Garros title under his belt — his 14th to date.
Newly developed terms “sportswashing” (the use of sports to present a sanitized, friendlier version of a political regime or operation) and “sharenting” (any time an adult in charge of a child’s well-being, such as a parent or a teacher, transmits private details about a child via digital channels) are gaining media popularity.
This week’s cheesiest campaign: Velveeta nail polish.
Kate Bush’s 1985 hit “Running Up That Hill” has seen a rare jump to the top of the charts after being featured in this season of Stranger Things.
Coinbase is apparently testing an app for employees to grade each other during meetings in favor of “radical transparency.”
We’ll see you here next week! 👋
The fine print: This week’s newsletter is brought to you by a podcast appearance from our boss