In honor of Mental Awareness Month, fast-food chain Burger King has introduced “Real Meals” to increase understanding about issues surrounding mental well-being.
This recent campaign is not only a collaboration with nonprofit organization Mental Health America (MHA), it is also taking jabs at fast-food chain McDonald’s Happy Meals. Burger King understands that not everyone is happy all the time, and as part of their campaign, they’ve swapped out their “Have It Your Way” slogan to “Feel Your Way.”
In a recent statement on bustle.com, president and chief executive of MHA Paul Gionfriddo said, “While not everyone would think about pairing fast food and mental health, MHA believes in elevating the conversation in all communities to address mental illness before Stage 4.”
According to MHA’s website, Stage 4 of Mental Health is the combination of extreme, prolonged and persistent symptoms and impairment often resulting in the development of other health conditions and has the potential to turn into a crisis event like unemployment, hospitalization, homelessness or even incarceration.
MHA’s website also states, 50 percent of Americans will meet the criteria for a diagnosable mental health condition sometime in their life, and half those people will develop conditions by the age of 14. MHA’s Before Stage 4 campaign hopes to address mental health issues before anyone reaches that point.
Five limited-edition themed Whopper meal boxes were introduced as the Real Meals. There is the pissed in red, blue for sad, salty in teal, yaaas in purple and “don’t give a f” (DGAF) in black. Since the campaign is relatively new, the Real Meals have only been introduced in a few major cities, including Seattle, New York, Los Angeles, Austin, and Miami.
Burger King has also introduced a 2-minute ad introducing the Real Meals and why Mental Health conditions should be recognized more frequently. Since the ad has aired, it has been deemed controversial as many people have commented on the campaign and its ad either praising or criticizing it.
From a statement on campaignlive.com, Doctor Kate Ryan said, “The problem with this campaign is that it doesn’t read as authentic or genuine for the brand. While mental health awareness is an extremely worthy topic that sounded fun and flashy in the room, it was never sense-checked on whether it was true to the brand or of the mental health crisis in America.”
Marketing futurist Tony Chapman on LinkedIn said, “What I can’t stomach is the connection back to sales. If BK had followed one of two paths, 100 percent supporting mental health through their foundation or using their Unhappy Meals as a fun way to poke the McBear, my sentiments would be different.”
Burger King may have its criticizers for the approach they took on mental health awareness, but they also found many individuals who supported the campaign and how Burger King has shined a light on a much-needed issue in America.
Chabot student Mary Awuku said, “Yes, I do support Burger King’s efforts to acknowledge mental awareness because it gives attention to a diverse set of customers, and it is surprising.”
Ashna Narayan, Chabot student, said, “I would definitely get the meal to support the cause. The majority of customers go through a depressive state of mind almost every day, so for them to acknowledge it helps others know they’re not alone.”
Both supporters and critics of the campaign will be awaiting Burger King’s next move with Mental Awareness Month.