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Society28 April 2017

E-gaming, burgers and social isolation – all in one campaign

Social trend

In Japan, the term hikikomori is used to describe people, most often men who have not left their home and have not interacted with another person for a minimum of 6 months. Recent research has shown that up to 541,000 Japanese at the age of 15-39 are included in the hikikomori group. The most common reasons for such extreme isolation is the feeling of not meeting parents’ expectations, not keeping up with peers, the high social pressure associated with the need to achieve a certain social status and… unlimited access to the Internet and new technologies. The latter apparently allow the hikikomori to cope with personal problems without leaving home or even their own room, which is treated by them as their fortress. The contact with loved ones in the real world replaces the relationships they make on the Internet, frequently with other hikikomori. For the whole time of such social alienation, that can last even for several years, bills for their withdrawn children are paid by parents who “provide” them with food, often at the door of their “fortress”.

When I came across the new Burger King’s idea a few days ago, I realized that in some areas it was very close to the dangerous Japanese phenomenon (today still called subculture, but already it is something more than just a niche for unsightly eccentrics). At the turn of April and May, the fast-food chain will launch a Burger Clan service in Spain, backed by an intense promotional campaign aimed at fans of E-sport. It will allow people to order food without interrupting the game – directly from the PlayStation console. In the first phase the order will be made by nine professional gamers (Burger King ambassadors) who will join the most popular online games and interact with other players. Their orders for promotional sets will be made by the microphone built into the game controllers. And of course, delivery to the door. Everything is seamless, if you have configured your account properly before.

It is impossible to leave this campaign completely unnoticed and without any comments. Its assumptions are in fact totally useless to me, and above all, they are against to what in recent years is so widely reported around the world. I mean the discussion about the increasingly obese society, the lack of exercise among young people, their attachment to a static lifestyle, and the dedication of tens of hours to online entertainment. Taking into account even this last issue (the extreme case of Brian Vigneault’s death is not a precedent in the e-gaming world), Burger King’s idea tries to get rid of another reason to leave the TV or computer screen for a moment.

I understand that Burger King’s entry in the E-sport is super important (by 2020 this market will be worth about $ 1.5 billion, and in most it will be built by people up to 22 years of age), in the end this is where you can find a significant portion of the target group of all junk food. However, building today’s habit of not going away from the console and cutting off the real world is both a bad practice and a promotion strategy. It is also a lack of understanding of key social problems. What worries me even more? Burger King’s plans – the company wants to move this campaign among others to the German, British and French markets.

As long as globally growing idea of individualism (according to the World Values Survey) is capable of creating charismatic leaders, the campaigns of this type described here, in my opinion, can only support the development of the obese society, full of excluded and enclosed entities, with a low level of empathy.

Full disclosure: I do have a console, but I do not use it.

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