- In advance of opening its first restaurant in Belgium, Burger King is running an online promotion that has drawn a rebuke from the country's real royal family, according to the BBC.
- The campaign website — whoistheking.be — asks visitors to choose whether they prefer the fast food brand's famous King mascot or Belgium’s actual King Philippe. People choosing King Philippe are asked two additional times if they are sure, with "no" being the only option for the second prompt. Voting is open until June 19.
- Even though King Philippe is represented by a cartoon on the website, the royal family claims it has to approve any use of his image, and a spokesman for the royal family said the use for commercial purposes is not approved of. Burger King claims it has not received any communication from the royal family, per the BBC.
Marketers know by now to err on the side of caution when wading into political waters, but Burger King likely thought showing a cartoon King Philippe would keep it in the clear and also keep the tone light and funny. Either through not understanding or just ignoring the process around co-opting the likeness of the royal family for advertising purposes, the brand has landed in hot water just as it tries to push into a new market.
Stemming from that, the online promotion is already earning the fast food brand plenty of media chatter but also risks turning off potential customers if they feel their cultural sensibilities are not taken seriously. The effort isn't Burger King’s first run at seemingly intentional controversy this year.
In April, it rolled out a TV spot that triggered Google Assistant on Google Home and voice-activated Android phones without users' permission. The ad asked the digital assistant what a Whopper was, with the AI then reading from a Wikipedia entry that was quickly overrun by trolls to include inappropriate copy. While Google moved to shut down the ad's functionality almost immediately, Burger King released additional versions as workarounds.