Peter Shankman was interviewed on CNN to discuss the significance and potential brand fallout of 5 local Burger King franchises in Memphis, TB that posted signs on their stores that dismissed global warming. The signs posted said “Global Warming Is Baloney.” The signs were not approved by nor hung with the permission of Burger King Headquarters, however the action could potentially hurt their brand image. Peter weighs in on the legal ramifications as well as the brand implications when franchises step outside contractual marketing.
CNN: Now this, when a small church demeans president Obama, it makes news, but it is after all a small church, when a bar hangs on offensive sign in their establishment, the meaning of nationality or a race, it makes news, but it is after all a small bar. What happens when a company is big as Burger King puts up a sign stating that quote global warming is baloney.
There it is. That is what the fast food giant is now having to deal with. After as many as five restaurants in the Memphis area did just that we asked the Sierra club for a response. It said that while an isolated and increasingly small minority continue to debate global warming, an overwhelming majority of scientists agree that it is happening.
Burger King says the signs do not reflect its corporate opinion or view. And we believe that they’ve now asked them to take the signs down. And as far as we can tell, they may very well have been taken down. We will continue to check joining us though is now Peter Shankman. He’s a branding and social media consultant.
He’s joining us from New York. Um, let me start with this, just from a business standpoint, I want you to think about this. Why can’t local restaurant express, what it believes to be the opinion of its clientele.
Peter Shankman: Because Rick, it’s not a local restaurant. If it was Joe’s pub, as you said, that’s fine. Joe’s pub welcome to do whatever they want.
CNN: But it is local too. That particular, if, if I live on fifth street in Memphis and I go shopping at that Burger King, or I buy my burgers at that perfect to me, it’s my local.
Peter Shankman: You’re right. You’re right. But it has a big, much bigger brand and it’s a much bigger awareness Joe’s pub wouldn’t garner a spot on your show. And if it did, it would be in passing. He certainly wouldn’t have me in. Burger King has, I guarantee you I’ve never seen one of their franchise contracts, but I guarantee you in their franchise contract, it says, essentially don’t do something like this. That’s that’s stupid.
CNN: No, you’re you’re you’re right. We checked. And it does have that provision in the contract. So, uh, let’s suppose a, the guy says, no, I feel strongly about this. I think global warming is crap. We’re being lied to and I’m going to keep the sign up. What does Burger King do then?
Peter Shankman: Well, I mean, I’m not a lawyer, but I would assume that they do have a lot of legal rights in those, you know, those franchise contracts are not made to, to fall down easily.
I mean, the thing about it is, is that you’re not talking about, um, you’re not talking about Joe’s pub thing that, that you’re talking about. Burger King, not store 52, 84, but Burger King. And they have a lot of lawyers that are going to say, Hey, you’re ruining our brand as a whole, as our reputation as a whole, because no one knows the difference between that Burger King and Burger King.
You don’t say I’m going to Burger King corporate. I’m going to Burger King 1272. You said what? A Burger King and two to mess with the brand on that kind of a scale. Now it’s Nashville. Attention is a dangerous thing to do in Burger King. I guarantee you has its eyes open.
CNN: I was talking to someone in the business recently who said that often times when this happens to chains, what they will do is.
Issue another franchisee, a block or half a block away to put up another Burger King or another McDonald’s or whatever the case might be and just beat them at the punch and literally put them out of business. When they go, as far as to do something like this, would they protect their brand that much?
Peter Shankman: Burger King is, is, is not one of those brands to be trifled with.
You know, I have no doubt that they would do something like that. It’s, you know, it’s similar to, um, to, uh, uh, the pizza platforms Domino’s or pizza or whatever. Um, a couple of months ago with the stupid kids where they distanced themselves immediately and said, this is not us. Yeah, they would do that and allow us, you know, I asked my Twitter followers on, on, at skydiver, I’m over at Twitter and a 42,000.
And I said, if you go into a store and they offend you, do you hit the store? Or do you hate the store of the brand? And overwhelmingly, a lot of them said it affects the brand and that they would not go back.
CNN. How important is that brand for somebody like Burger King or any of these companies that we look at?
I mean, Do they need to protect themselves against something like this? Cause it’s just really a political opinion. In fact, let me ask you this while I’m thinking about it. Something else just popped into my head. Do you think we’ll start to see companies, uh, make, take social or political positions? Even if they are controversy controversial.
Peter Shankman: I think no, stay away from controversy per say, but hey McDonald’s and the main, the main, the main names out there, McDonald’s, Burger King, they’ve been recycling and calling themselves green for years, you know, Starbucks, this, this cup is made for 80% recycled.
We’re helping the environment. McDonald’s took the whole thing with them. Uh, getting kids healthy. Every, every soda you have, which has 12,000 grams of sugar, still has a little kid doing some exercises on the, on the, on the, on the side.
CNN: So and so, so a conservative. So a conservative guy or gal who’s watching that and says, you know what. I don’t agree with this whole green thing. I think we’re paying too much attention to it. The president’s spending too much money trying to fix our cars and our economy using this green philosophy. Why are they pushing that mountain down my throat?
Peter Shankman: The difference is, is that the stuff they’re trying to do? You know, getting kids dinner there’s no, one’s going to question that that helps, you know, so it really comes down to what’s good and what’s controversial. And if it’s controversial companies tend to step as far back as humanly possible.
CNN: Peter Shankman you’re good. I really enjoyed the conversation. Let’s get you back here.