Cannes Lions predictions: Burger King’s ‘Feel Your Way’
What will win at Cannes Lions this year? We asked Debs Gerrard, creative director of The Lego Agency for her predictions.
For Mental Health Awareness month, Burger King created ‘Feel Your Way’ – a play on the company’s decades-old slogan ’Have It Your Way’ and an on-brand poke at McDonald’s Happy Meals. It transformed its Whooper boxes into five real meals, labeling them Salty, Pissed, YAAAS, DGAF (Don't Give a F***) and Sad.
What I enjoyed most about this work is its bravery to start a global debate, taking a risk by moving into a sensitive topic because the brand believed it was the right thing to do, seeing an opportunity to connect with customers in a new way.
Burger King is not the first brand to use depression, millennial anxiety or general malaise to sell food, but the press for the most part covered this work positively, strongly amplifying the message. Identifying stigma as the real enemy, they praised how ‘Feel Your Way‘ helped normalize conversations around mental health, saying the new line of ‘unhappy meals’ provided a much fuller range of human emotion and reminded people that it was OK not to be happy all the time.
But as with any modern debate, there was social media backlash to go alongside the positive reception. Some claimed it was downplaying mental illness, purely attempting to profit off the subject.
The Burger King #feelyourway campaign is a gross attempt to use mental health to sell burgers.
If your campaign for mental health confuses emotions with disorders, takes a shot at a competitor’s branding and pushes a product, you’re using a social issue, not supporting it.— ella dawson (@brosandprose) May 3, 2019
Others questioned if a fast food brand had license to play in this space, given the importance of healthy eating.
Burger King using my depression to sell me food gives me depression. https://t.co/GvCEsZ7JcC— Dean Dobbs (@DeanDobbs) May 2, 2019
I‘m probably even less qualified to comment on the clinical appropriateness of BK‘s mental health messaging than the brand is, but I can’t help feeling like the work one way or another touches on important human truths.
Even if the work doesn’t go into the real depth of mental health struggles, it shows real-world empathy for its customers. It doesn’t expect everyone to come into the store with a giant smile on their face or a skip in their step. Instead, it normalizes feelings not usually featured in the shiny world of marketing.
This empathy and the resonance that it drives creates an opportunity to strengthen relationships in a way that’s critical to mainstream ‘everyday’ brands. And yes, in a way that drives sales too, which is still as much of the job of advertising (and the agency), as to create a debate on an important topic. Results of course reflect this success with 2.9bn earned media impressions and $33.1m of earned media.
To do that while highlighting an important conversation, even if taking a few kicks on the way, gets a smile from me.
Debs Gerrard is creative director at The Lego Agency.