Who would have ever thought that we would be in a world-not just a country-where wearing a mask to protect against disease would be normal, everyday behavior? Whether you’re a fan of the mask or not, it’s recommended, if not mandatory, in most places where there are people. Even if you do support wearing a mask, as many do, it’s for medical reasons. It’s not a fashion statement. When the COVID-19 pandemic is over, I doubt many people will say, “That was fun. Now that it’s over and we don’t have to wear masks anymore, I’d still like to keep wearing mine.”
This article isn’t to convince you to wear or not wear a mask, but instead to take a look at how some companies make lemonade out of lemons-the lemon representing the mask most of us don’t want to wear.
I recently read an article by Matthew Stern, editor at RetailWire.com. This article was about Burger King’s effort to humorize -as in try to have some fun with-the mask. I can imagine that the creative people in the marketing department were thinking, “So, if everyone has to wear masks, let’s do something fun with them. Maybe something that will make people laugh.” And that’s exactly what they did.
In Belgium, the global burger chain had a social media contest in which 250 winners received protective masks that featured their favorite Burger King order custom-printed on the front. The game was played on Instagram and Facebook, which meant that the entire world could potentially watch the contest unfold. (Here we are a few weeks later sharing the story in Forbes!) You see, social media really works.
This contest is not the first time Burger King infused fun into something as serious as wearing a mask. With six-foot social distancing in mind, they created a crown that was six feet in diameter. I remember as a kid when BK gave out paper crowns to customers. This was a coveted prize for dining at a BK. I love the picture of the six-foot crown. It’s nostalgic. It’s on-brand. Most importantly, it’s relevant.
The fun didn’t start with COVID-19. In 2017, the Belgium stores ran a “Whopper Bus” shuttle to pick up customers and take them to and from their restaurants. In that same year, the Burger Kings in Russia launched a cryptocurrency promotion, having created their own cryptocurrency at the height of the crypto boom.
There’s a lesson to learn from the Burger King promotion. Are they making fun of masks and social distancing? No. However, they are having fun with these very serious concepts. The point is that just because something is serious doesn’t mean you can’t have a sense of humor and a little fun with it. The key is to not cross the line.
One of the most serious incidents in our recent history prior to COVID-19 was the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001. That was almost 20 years ago. I remember watching The Late Show the next week. The show, at that time, was hosted by late-night television talk show host and comedian David Letterman. On his first show after the terrorist attack, which aired eight days later, he started out on a very somber note. He admitted that the last 20 years of his show were about being funny and making fun of everything. This was not the time to do his typical comedic “schtick.” Yet, as serious and heartfelt as this opening monologue was, he received applause throughout and even a few laughs.
Was humor appropriate so soon after the attacks? The appropriate humor-with the appropriate timing-was exactly what America needed at the time. While the monologue was serious, his interview with the first guest, Regis Philbin, had the right balance of humor and seriousness. It was exactly what America needed.
COVID-19 has caused death and devastation. There’s nothing funny about that. However, that doesn’t mean we can’t keep our sense of humor. There will be people who find the Burger King promotions offensive. I’m sure there were even a few people who found any humor from David Letterman that first night back then to be in poor taste. But as I read the article about Burger King, I smiled. It felt good. Shortly thereafter, I headed over to Burger King to get a Whopper.
Originally published at https://www.forbes.com.