“If you can’t stand the heat,” the voiceover booms, “then you will never get out of the kitchen.”
A shot of a knife whipping through the air and then thunking into a slab of nondescript meat. The sound of boiling water hissing as it hits a stainless steel stove. More swishing knife sounds. Blood spatters.
“Gordon Ramsay in his first feature film. Gourmet Murder Kitchen. In cinemas February four.”
Sadly, I made that little intro up.
Gourmet Murder Kitchen is a not a cheap horror film, shot in the kitchens of a community centre in Basingstoke, with a plot that sees Gordon Ramsay pick off a cast of beautiful female trainee chefs as his fragile male ego is threatened by their talent and ability not to give themselves a hernia whilst shouting at the pot washer for splashing some Fairy Liquid on to a bowl of leftover peas.
No. It’s actually a hashtag created by angry vegans and vegetarians in response to Gourmet Burger Kitchen’s latest marketing campaign.
Last week, with a dose of edginess that can only have been borrowed from the writers at Hollyoaks, GBK unveiled their latest ads; sleek, glossy posters appearing across the Underground sporting images of giant burgers next to captions such as ‘Vegetarians, resistance is futile’ and ‘You’ll always remember when you gave up being vegetarian.’ One poster even features an angelic cow (who I have to say, is viewing the person photographing her with real suspicion) peering from beneath the words ‘They eat grass so that you don’t have to’.*
Of course, vegans and vegetarians across the country were a little put out. Put out in the sense that emergency services across the country were inundated with pleas to come and put out the fiery pools of rage in which the herbivores found themselves in response to what I can say with confidence is the smarmiest ad campaign of 2016. Yep, we’ve peaked here, guys.
Non-meat eaters seething with anger took to Twitter and created #gourmetmurderkitchen to share their opinions. Some told GBK to go fuck themselves, some thanked GBK for the publicity that their silly little ads were bestowing upon Veganuary and some simply pointed out that if the aim of the campaign was to persuade them to begin eating meat again, then it had very much failed.
Of course, that was never the point. Vegans and vegetarians were just the canon fodder that GBK used in their attempt to blow the minds of carnivores.
Trouble is, carnivores don’t really care, which is something that I don’t think anyone at GBK seems to have considered.
I can see how they got carried away with the whole thing, really; some guy who describes himself as a ‘marketing ninja’ nodding his head sagely, telling the team “This is the stuff, guys. This will get people talking”, and the team not giving enough of a shit to say “Well, yes, it probably will get people talking, but is it going to make people buy from us? Is it going to bring in new customers, whilst keeping the ones that we already have loyal?”
Smart marketing is marketing that appeals directly, and sometimes unapologetically, to the type of customer who you are looking to attract and to them only. However, there is little skill to be shown or praise to be gained in offensive marketing. Anyone can be offensive. Being deliberately offensive in order to score a few articles that were hastily written by an intern and are made up exclusively of other people’s tweets is really lazy marketing; it gets you talked about, but what happens next?
I haven’t seen any carnivores express relief that finally there is a company that shares their own sneering contempt for vegans and vegetarians, much less any desire to head straight to their local GBK, grateful of the reminder that the chain still exists.
Burgers are everywhere and good burgers are nearly everywhere, which means that meat eaters don’t have to be loyal. GBK could afford to piss off a few meat eaters in order to bring vegans and vegetarians closer; after all, meat eaters will still visit – remember, we have no principles.
Too late now, though.
So, it’s over to GBK’s competitors and their responses. If someone is willing to poke fun at GBK’s ads, and the patronising apology that they issued the day after the ads first appeared, and upset the odd militant meat eater in order to create a loyal fan base of rejected vegans and vegetarians, then that’s where the really smart marketing could, and should, happen.
*Sidenote, someone should tell the cows that if they want to eat grass then that’s cool, but they shouldn’t do it for us, as literally no humans anywhere, vegetarian or otherwise, have any intention of eating grass.