Today’s lesson: When dreaming up cutesy promotions for your fast food franchise, always proceed with kaution.
Doughnut and coffee chain Krispy Kreme is apologizing this week for a ‘KKK Wednesday’ promotion planned by one of its franchisees in the United Kingdom. The event came to light after a store in Hull, England, promoted the event on its Facebook page.
KKK, of course, is most widely knows as shorthand for the Ku Klux Klan. By all appearances, though the Krispy Kreme in Hull was not organizing a white supremacist rally. "KKK Wednesday, in this case, refers to the Krispy Kreme Klub, part of a weeklong series of activities meant to keep children busy during a school holiday. Other scheduled events included 'Face Painting Thursday,' 'Balloon Madness,' and 'Board Games Galore.'" A screenshot of the now-deleted ad is below:
Still. KKK Wednesday. The promotion immediately drew outrage and derision on Twitter and Facebook, forcing the Hull store to delete the promotion from its page and prompting an apology from both Krispy Kreme UK and the company’s Winston Salem, N.C. headquarters.
“Krispy Kreme apologises unreservedly for the inappropriate name of a customer promotion at one of our stores,” a spokeswoman for Krispy Kreme in the UK told the Guardian. “This promotion was never intended to cause offence. All material has been withdrawn and an internal investigation is currently underway.”
"We do believe this was a completely unintentional oversight on the part of our longtime franchise partners in the UK," Krispy Kreme spokeswoman Lafeea Watsson said in a company statement. "They have taken quick and appropriate actions to remove the materials online and in-shops, and have wholeheartedly apologized to their consumers. They have also assured us that they will be taking greater precautions with their publicity materials in the future."
A spokeswoman for the Hull location said Tuesday that it would move forward with activities for KKK Wednesday, but under a different name.
Krispy Kreme, of course, isn’t the first food chain to get caught up in an accidental bout of racial insensitivity. In 2012, PopChips pulled an online ad featuring actor Ashton Kutcher done up in brown face playing an Indian character named Raj. In 2012, Sony caught heat for an overseas billboard advertising a white version of its PSP gaming system; it portrayed a white woman roughly grabbing a black woman’s face next to the words “white is coming.”
By comparison, “KKK Wednesday,’ from one well-intentioned franchise owner in a country where the term ‘KKK,’ may not immediately conjure images of cross burnings and white hoods, is a far more innocent misstep. But it should serve as a teaching moment to those hatching ad campaigns for the Kit Kat bars and Kellogg’s cereals of the world.