'War! What is it good for? Absolutely nothing'. That's how the song goes anyway, but Indian companies don't seem to agree with Edwin Starr, the original composer of that seminal song. And as far as marketing strategies for restaurants go, this one leaves a greasy taste in the mouth; it's just that oily. And, by that, we mean it's cloying and ingratiating, not fattening.
Burger Singh, an Indian burger brand (what else could it be, with a name like that) decided to combat yet another business day by exploiting news of the air strike conducted by the Indian Air Force early Tuesday morning. The chain pushed out spam SMS texts to all those unfortunate to be on their calling lists with the following legend: "In light of the airstrike on the Jaish terror camps get a 20% discount on http://burgersinghonline.com Use code: FPAKAGAIN #SorryNotSorry".
If that wasn't tacky enough enough, they tweeted out the same, this time tacking on a scene from Pulp Fiction to their grotesque marketing stunt; I'm sure you can guess which one. So, just to be crystal clear (unlike certain obtuse PR teams), this company exploited a still-developing tense military situation to sell some burgers (we know Tuesday is a slow business day in north India, but sheesh), and then compared the Indian Air Force to a psychotic, if erudite, hitman with a disturbing habit of quoting the Bible before murdering people. But hey, they used #SorryNotSorry, so I guess that makes it okay.
In light of today's airstrike by the IAF on Pakistani terror camps, we offer a 20% discount on all orders on https://t.co/3MTmDd9E1w . Coupon code: FPAKAGAIN#Sorrynotsorry #Surgicalstrike2 #FPAK20 #IndianAirForce #IndiaStrikesBack #Balakot #FPAKAGAIN #howsthejosh pic.twitter.com/1Y7CJxSPoL— BurgerSingh (@BurgerSinghs) February 26, 2019
Most people were not pleased.
A thin line in marketing you should never cross.There is a difference between being quirky and being insensitive about an issue that concerns 1.2B people. You should be #Sorry for not being #SoSorry @BurgerSinghs. Never ordering from you guys in this life.— Swagata Sarangi (@SwagataSarangi) February 26, 2019
So irresponsible and insensitive on your part to make light of national issues as a marketing gimmick to sell more burgers. In very poor taste (literally too, I hear) #boycottburgersingh— Niki Seth (@NikiSeth2) February 26, 2019
U shd b ASHAMED of urself.Usin a sensitive issue 2 inc ur Sales ??— Deven-itively Me 😉 (@Dave44335260) February 26, 2019
Pls....DON'T EVER COME TO MUMBAI!!! U think @IAF_MCC did dis 4 it's own pleasure ???
We wr FORCED 2 adopt this rightful tactic (acc. 2 me). Pls don't trivialize a complex issue by = 20% discount! 🙄
Shame on u!
But if you think that this singular lack of taste and sensitivity is unique only to a brand already guilty of selling sub-standard burgers at premium prices (hey, I call 'em as I see 'em, #sorrynotsorry), worry not, dear reader, for there are other equally crass, callous companies.
After people started reacting (mostly negatively) to Burger Singh's off-putting opportunism and #sorrynotsorry began trending on desi Twitter, the social media handles of other companies, apparently figuring there's no such thing as bad publicity, jumped on to the brandwagon to flog their own wares.
CakeZone, an "Online Same Day Fresh Cake Delivery Platform in Bangalore, Hyderabad & Pune", tweeted out a "20% discount" offer with the same hashtag, and somehow managed to make it worse. Not content to exploit merely one tragic terrorist attack (Pulwama, 40 Indian soldiers killed), the celebrants of 'this awesome moment' had to drag Uri (19 soldiers killed) in as well. Literally; the code to avail of their 20% discount is URI2PULWAMA.
Let's celebrate the achievement of our brave soldiers. Here's a coupon code to celebrate this awesome moment. Use URI2PULWAMA and get 20% off on all cakes. #sorrynotsorry #Surgicalstrike2 #IndianAirForce #IndiaStrikesBack #Balakot #howsthejosh— CakeZone (@CakeZoneCom) February 26, 2019
Meanwhile, Smaaash, an international sports bar chain, was also game to profit off of some insensitivity by offering a '1+1' deal at its four NCR outlets if you used the code INDIANAIRFORCE, because what are a nation's armed forces for if not to get a free pint of beer, amirite?
Wow! How insensitive can your marketing team be? Stop using this strike as an excuse to get more money. Will you guys join the armed forces to fight? Enough of the stupidity. #Joshmyfoot #ShameOnYou @SmaaashLive @SmaaashUSA pic.twitter.com/WEX2ohCXTa— Vatsala Mehra (@Vatsala1Mehra) February 26, 2019
It wasn't just food companies though, if that makes it any better. Or worse. A local online gifting store is offering a 12% discount if you use the code SURGICAL2.0. Why 12%? Because it had been 12 days since the attack, 12 jet fighters were used by the IAF, and I guess they're 8% too cheap to give a full 20% off.
12 days -12 aircrafts -12%off— Geekmonkey (@geekmonkeydotin) February 26, 2019
Revenge is a dish best served cold. https://t.co/rvnozxFvWs Use code: SURGICAL2.0#IndiaStrikesBack#12gloomydays#SorryNotSorry#surgicalstrike2 #indianairforce… https://t.co/eAYEytDdMC
Given that Burger Singh had started the whole sordid business, they received the most backlash as well (to be fair, they had a fair share of support as well, because jingoism). However, the company refused to back down and instead decided to double down by issuing a statement to the effect that they had heard the views of people, and well, theyy didn't really care; they were going to continue playing to the ultra-nationalist crowd.
Patriotism is supporting your country all the time, and your government when it deserves it. #Surgicalstrike2 #IndianAirForce #IndiaStrikesBack #Balakot #FPAKAGAIN #howsthejosh pic.twitter.com/OyAxNy0oez— BurgerSingh (@BurgerSinghs) February 26, 2019
We get it. It's nothing personal, it's only business, as you might say. The thing is, this is personal, and personally, I think this kind of cheap publicity is nauseating. #SorryNotSorry