Fast-food marketing: The hamburger 

Moral Entrepreneurialism for the Hamburger: Strategies for Marketing a Contested Fast Food

Peer-reviewed research by: Natália Otto, Josée Johnston, and Shyon Baumann

What’s behind fast-food marketing, and is it really all that morally suspect? This article explores the campaigns of three fast-food chains, and draws out the strategies used to entice customers and curb social critiques. Check out the abstract below, and then click through to the main article to learn more: 

Recent research has extended the concept of moral entrepreneurialism to corporate actors. We build on this research to investigate how corporations succeed in this effort by uncovering the strategies and tools they employ as moral entrepreneurs. To do so, we examine the corporate discourse of three prominent fast-food firms to identify how they present hamburgers as good food, in a context where beef is increasingly criticized as morally suspect. Based on a discourse analysis of corporate communications and marketing campaigns, we identify three distinct discursive strategies for managing meat criticisms: (1) global managerialism (McDonald’s); (2) aestheticized simplicity (A&W); and (3) nostalgic, personalized appeals (Wendy’s). These strategies are realized through the use of informational tools to shape what customers think and know about beef, and affective tools to influence how customers feel about beef. Together, these corporate strategies speak to the skilful ability of corporate actors to respond to socio-environmental criticisms. Our case shows how fast-food market actors are able to incorporate critique and offer messages that seek to allow people to feel good about eating beef. This case is relevant to understanding the tools that corporations use to be effective moral entrepreneurs. It also provides a deeper understanding of marketing discourse at the nexus of social problems and consumption choices. 

Click here to read the full open-access article, published in 2021 in the journal Cultural Sociology.

Full Reference //

Otto, N., Johnston, J., & Baumann, S. (2022). Moral Entrepreneurialism for the Hamburger: Strategies for Marketing a Contested Fast Food. Cultural Sociology, 16(2), 190–211.

This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0).

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