A few people sent me a link to a Burger King ad which recently ran in Spain to ask for my thoughts. The ad depicts the Hindu goddess Lakshmi sitting on top of a burger along with some snacks and features the line, “The snack is sacred”.
As an expert on diversity and cross-cultural issues and as someone who advises companies on how to reach out to ethnic markets, I strongly advise my clients to avoid ads like this. Burger King’s response to the outrage generated was to apologize and pull the ad…which was the right thing to do. However, in our digital age where information travels the globe in a matter of minutes, the damage has already been done. There are approximately one billion Hindus around the world…that’s a lot of people to offend.
Is this ad culturally insensitive? Yes, it’s insensitive and illustrates a lack of awareness and due diligence. It’s not that Hindus do not depict Gods and Goddesses in marketing ads. It’s the type of ad that has offended people. Most Hindus are vegetarian and there is a strong taboo against beef.
Is it enough for Burger King to issue an apology and pull the ad? Burger King did the right thing and they were responsive, but as far as their business image is concerned, it has been affected. There is no excuse in today’s global marketplace for a company to put out an ad depicting a religious figure without doing some due diligence. It will cause offense and with the global competition for customers, it’s just not smart business.