Arby's responds to low-level vegetarian outrage with cheeky help line instead of caving

This month, Arby’s introduced a tempting new bacon product to the already generously bacon-infused fast-food market—brown sugar bacon. Arby’s was true to its slogan— “We Have the Meats.” But not everyone is excited that Arby’s a) Has the Meats and b) is so vociferous about it. Vegetarians have voiced their discontent via e-mails and tweets, naturally.

It’s not hard to imagine some nascent campaign to get Arby’s to drop its “offensive” slogan for “othering” those who don’t enjoy bacon. It’s not terribly hard to imagine the national media treating such a campaign semi-seriously, and some cowardly corporation caving to faux pressure. After all, it only took one social media activist on Twitter to start a week-long news story based on one Colbert Report tweet, which was clearly satirical, calling to #CancelColbert. Colbert ended up deleting the show’s Twitter account and apologizing.

Arby’s took a different tack, nipping any complaint from the perpetually aggrieved in the bud by responding with a bit of good-natured mockery also tailored to ingratiate it even further with the meat lovers of the world. Arby’s response? A help line for tempted vegetarians who might feel pangs of regret in the wake of the brown sugar bacon announcement. The tone is respectful of vegetarians’ lifestyle choice, but notes that living a meat-lover’s lifestyle is also a valid choice, and one Arby’s will continue to flaunt.

ATLANTA, July 7, 2015 /PRNewswire/ — Dear Vegetarians;

We respect you. We respect your life decisions. With that in mind, we want it to be abundantly clear that this letter is not meant to sway or convert you. We’re sharing this to offer our support.

Nearly a year ago, we embarked on a journey to tell America about our meats. By now, you’ve likely heard the Arby’s tagline: We Have The Meats®. It’s tough to hear, but it is what it is. We have many meats. And we have quality meats.

It is understandable that you disapprove of our meat-bravado. Your voices have been heard. Letters, emails, voicemails, Tweets and Facebook comments – we hear you. We love our meats, but realize they’re not for everyone.

Then on Sunday, June 28, we launched a meat innovation that has likely tempted you: Brown Sugar Bacon. It’s our pepper bacon, glazed in-restaurant with brown sugar and then cooked to perfection. It may be hard to resist…even for you. Hardcore vegetarians likely won’t budge, but for those of you who are on the fringe or new to the game, avoidance can’t be easy.

We, at Arby’s, have created this temptation. So, we’d like to help.

We’re giving you a number to call: 1-855-MEAT-HLP. This is a Vegetarian Support Hotline. When your nose betrays you and alerts the rest of your senses to find and devour this sweet meat, please call 1-855-MEAT-HLP. You will receive the support you need to resist this gateway meat and get tips on how to avoid temptation. Delicious. Sizzling. Temptation.

Be strong. We’re here for you.


More of this, please. It’s not that bacon was in grave danger—though, as you know, I have a particular interest in making sure it flourishes—but the tone Arby’s takes with those who complained about its meat-enthusastic marketing is a perfect way to end an outrage before it begins. Also, these days, we live in a country where people literally call 911 because they saw an old flag they didn’t like, so I’m never one to assume people won’t act like children. In that spirit, we shouldn’t treat people who are acting like children like adults who deserve credence, even if their relatively small numbers are very, very loud. This press release says what companies should often say in the face of even larger, louder outrage mobs— “Your complaints are noted. We respect you as fellow Americans but we don’t need to agree on everything. Now, let’s move on, and by the way, have you tried our delicious/convenient/amazing product?”

We write in “End of Discussion” that caving to outrage mobs often makes the problem worse rather than fixing it. They feed off the “demand for apology” story and the “apology story” and the “apology not accepted” story. If you refuse to follow them down the path they’ve laid out for you, as the likes of Joan Rivers always did, the story often ends more quickly than if you cave. And, there are a lot more people who don’t care about the fuss being made than there are of those making it.

Arby’s poking a tiny bit of fun at a small group of overreacting vegetarians is what coexistence looks like. We can handle “We Have the Meats,” America. You can hear the hotline message, here, if you should need it.

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