‘Amotekun Babes’ & The ‘Misadventure’ Of Burger King In Trendjacking


‘Amotekun’ is a security outfit that was launched in January 2020 by the Southwest Governors of Nigeria. The outfit was created in response to growing concerns over rising insecurity and criminal activity in the region, particularly in rural areas.

In the past couple of weeks, the meaning of Amotekun has taken a somewhat dramatic meaning, asides from what the founders had intended. Last month, a Tweep (someone who uses the social media platform Twitter) caused quite a stir with his categorization of women on the Blue app. By segmenting them by what he called ‘locations of concentration’ (where they live), churches they attend, wigs they use, social media, and type of content they create. He came up with four categories: the ‘Baddie’ for the high-class chic, ‘Civilian’ for the 9-5 working-class woman, and ‘Amotekun’ for those on the lowest rung of his social order.

While the Tweet has received numerous attention, with a good percentage of backlashes, it soon became a trend. It didn’t end there. It received further amplification when the American-based multinational chain of hamburger fast food restaurants in Nigeria, Burger King jumped on the trend with its own version:

Wondering who the Baddies, Civilians, and Amotekun Babes are at BK? Well, here you go! So tell us are you a Baddie, Civilian, or Amotekun? Or is your category even here? Ps: this is just for fun and not factual.  #BurgerKingNigeria,” the copy read.

So, while Amotekun has now become some sort of classification for a category of women on Twitter, Burger King has, according to a bulk of the backlashes it received, further given credence to it. Expectedly, reactions started pouring in with Tweeps ‘cooking’ the restaurant brand for jumping on the trend.

What the brand attempted to do is what is termed Trendjacking in marketing parlance. Trendjacking is a tempting marketing strategy when brands, seeking to capture the attention of consumers, jump on a trending issue they did not create. Trendjacking comes with other ‘variants’, as well. Newsjacking, which involves inserting your brand into a breaking news story or event; Eventjacking, which is piggybacking on a popular event or holiday to create a marketing campaign or promotion; Memesjacking, incorporating a popular internet meme into your brand’s messaging or content and Hashtagjacking, which involves using a popular hashtag to join a larger conversation on social media.

But as with any marketing tactic, there are risks involved in using it. Brands that attempt to capitalize on a trending topic or event without careful consideration can easily fall into trouble with consumers. For instance, in 2017, Pepsi released an ad that featured Kendall Jenner joining a protest and handing a can of Pepsi to a police officer. The ad was widely criticized for trivializing the Black Lives Matter movement and using imagery that was insensitive and inappropriate. The backlash was so severe that Pepsi quickly pulled the ad and issued an apology.

In 2018, McDonald’s attempted to celebrate International Women’s Day with a tweet that read “Today, we flip our Golden Arches to celebrate the women who have chosen McDonald’s to be a part of their story.” The tweet was widely panned for being tone-deaf and failing to acknowledge the many ways in which women have been marginalized in the fast-food industry. Consumers called out the brand for failing to make meaningful changes to address issues such as pay inequality and sexual harassment.

As far back as 2014, DiGiorno Pizza attempted to trendjack a hashtag related to domestic violence by tweeting “WhyIStayed You had pizza.” The hashtag was being used by survivors of domestic violence to share their stories and raise awareness of the issue. DiGiorno’s tweet was seen as insensitive and trivializing a serious issue. The brand quickly deleted the tweet and issued an apology.

Burger King’s recent ‘misadventure’, sadly adds to the body of trendjacking misadventures around the world. Though as of press time the offending copies were still on their social media pages with no indication of any apology forthcoming, a few take-homes will be useful from creatives who shared their opinion on the matter on LivewithLynda on Instagram. Instagram User @Swibbery200 feels that “brands shouldn’t jump on any trend or post as not all are healthy for brand image/reputation.”

@Iamhigh_Jay believed that the brand could have done better. “I get the drift of trying to provide offers for the different sections of your audience but this strategy could have been implemented in a much better way though…,” he wrote.

Another Twitter User, @Createhub.ng opines: “I honestly still can’t believe that our bold and creative Burger King jumped on this! Like, whyyyy? It’s important to be aware of the social and cultural context in which a trend is emerging, before jumping on them to avoid insensitive or inappropriate messaging that might offend or alienate people. That trend was a jab, and they jumped on it, quite insensitive to their audience.

Wondering who the Baddies, Civilians, and Amotekun Babes are at BK? Well, here you go! So tell us are you a Baddie, Civilian, or Amotekun? Or is your category even here? Ps: this is just for fun and not factual.  #BurgerKingNigeria

“The initial trend was to rate women at different levels, it was already an insult to women. If you even call a food package/combo “Amotekun” I won’t buy!” the Tweep remarked.

@billionshadesads said, “I think this is a case of a brand that doesn’t have strong values. It’s when you don’t have values that you hold dear that would make you jump on any trend you see just to trend. Their posts are not bad in themselves, but they are quite sensitive.

But Twitter User, @Philip_Adaramola says “Any publicity, good or bad is still …..” Corroborating this, Twitter User @benny_motalem says “People are steadily overthinking this. Prior to this post, I didn’t know there was Burger King in Nigeria.”

@Trustroy chips in, “PR is PR as far as they can manage the backlash, well done to the team.”@Phenomenalnancy added, “Well, it got a lot of people talking. They should be able to milk the most out of these controversial remarks if they have a good head in there, though.”

Being indifferent, @abiolaa_ayodele wrote, “I did not exactly like the context of the original thread. However, I don’t get the fuss about Burger King Nigeria’s post. Many international brands with a franchise in Nigeria always try to jump on trends for PR; it’s not exactly new.

Corroborating Abiola, Twitter User @Ade_dapor added, “The fact that Twitter thinks they can set the pace for common sense is appalling, there was already a caveat in the ad that it was fun only. These same people are the ones that didn’t see anything bad in the Sterling and Peak Milk Easter ad.”

Does that mean trendjacking cannot be effective? Absolutely not! When done thoughtfully and with a clear purpose, trendjacking can be a powerful marketing strategy that can generate significant buzz, engagement, and patronage for brands.

For instance, Wema Bank is one financial brand that has capitalized on and benefitted from trendjacking. The bank saw its customer deposits take a boost after it jumped on Singer David Adedeji-Davido’s birthday N1 million challenge in 2021. In fact, a Nairametrics report showed that the bank’s financial statement for Q3 of that year showed that its customers’ deposits increased by 9.31% to N879.82 billion from N804.87 it recorded at the beginning of that year.

During the 2013 Super Bowl in the US, a power outage caused the game to be delayed for 34 minutes. During this time, Oreo tweeted a simple image that read “You can still dunk in the dark.” The tweet quickly went viral and was widely praised for its cleverness and timeliness. It also helped to generate a significant amount of buzz for the brand, with many people praising Oreo for its agility and quick thinking.

In 2017, Wendy’s took to Twitter to roast its competitors and engage with its audience in a playful and humorous way. The fast-food chain’s social media team gained a reputation for its witty comebacks and irreverent tone, and its tweets quickly went viral. The approach helped to humanize the brand and connect with consumers in a way that felt authentic and relatable.

These examples demonstrate how trendjacking can be a powerful marketing strategy when done thoughtfully and with a clear purpose. By leveraging timely and relevant trends, brands can generate significant buzz and engagement, while also connecting with consumers in a way that feels authentic and relevant.

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