In June, Burger King made headlines for the wrong reasons after the restaurant chain was dragged into a crisis based on a retirement gift given to an employee at a Las Vegas location.
Kevin Ford — the employee in question — had been working at the chain for 27 years and never missed a day of work. He was rewarded for his years of service with a goodie bag containing a movie ticket, candy, and a Starbucks cup.
The crisis for Burger King began when social media users accused Burger King of failing to appreciate their workers, after a video of the goodie bag Ford received upon his retirement went viral. This spiraled into more than a week’s worth of coverage, as the narrative moved towards the fundraising effort and celebrities became involved in the narrative.
Out of the top 250 stories about brands, 23 of them (~9%) were about the developments at Burger King, while the stories were responsible for a similar proportion of public interest (~8%). The story initially sat for around a day with very little engagement before being covered by TMZ. That’s when engagement really began to pick up, and a GoFundMe was launched for the employee in question.
The narrative eventually switched to being more about the fundraising effort, as celebrities such as David Spade and others contributed, but even in these stories Burger King continued to be framed as the villain.
In total, there were more than 800 articles published and almost 2 million engagements to those stories, making it one of the biggest narratives of the month as a whole, even beyond just brand-focused content, and even continued into July.
While Burger King was one of the dominant narratives, they certainly weren’t the only brand talked about in June. Here are some of the other things you need to know this month.
Key learnings from June’s brand coverage
1. Schadenfreude can drive high engagement
One of the biggest political stories involving a brand was around Walmart’s move to no longer stock MyPillow products. MyPillow’s owner and CEO Mike Lindell had been closely involved with election conspiracy theories in the wake of the 2020 election, and has repeatedly claimed that the election was stolen.
Walmart was written about 18 times in the top 250 stories, and had a similar level of engagement from the public as Burger King did, with top stories coming from mainstream news outlets including Axios and Business Insider. Many of the posts sharing the news focused on Lindell’s reaction to the news.
2. When Elon Musk speaks, the world pays attention
We said it in last month’s coverage too, but Elon Musk was almost unavoidable on the internet again in June, thereby dragging Tesla into myriad conversations — this time mostly about workers’ ability to work from home. He insinuated that it’s impossible to bring as much value to a company from home as you do from the office, and warned his workforce that they would have to find new jobs soon if they weren’t committed to working in-person.
Other narratives about Tesla included a car spontaneously catching on fire in a junkyard and layoffs at the company.
Employee relations was a huge topic generally, with Tesla driving a lot of this coverage. 74 of the top 250 stories were about employee relations, with other brands involved including the Burger King story, IBM laying off workers, and Amazon running out of people to hire.
3. Business Insider was a runaway success in June
In May, the top publishers writing about brands were fairly evenly distributed, but in June there was one clear champion.
Business Insider was responsible for 21 of the top 250 stories — more than double the amount it managed in June — covering everything from the MyPillow/Walmart fallout to gas tax holidays to potential fines for deepfakes on platforms.
Cheryl Teh, Tim Levin, Isobel Asher Hamilton, and Grace Kay had particular success, with all of these authors having multiple entries in the top 250.
June, then, was very much a varied month for brand coverage, but employee relations took center stage for many brands, while Elon Musk ate up the limelight in a way that only he can.
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