What in the World—Week of March 21

Why Burger King can’t close stores in Russia
While competitors like McDonald’s and KFC have pulled out of Russia because of its invasion of Ukraine, Burger King’s approximately 800 restaurants in the country remain open because of “complicated” contracts with its international partners. In a March 17 letter to staff, Restaurant Brands International president David Shear said the company had asked Alexander Kolobov, the main operator of Burger King in Russia, to close stores but its request had been refused. “Would we like to suspend all Burger King operations immediately in Russia? Yes,” he wrote. “Are we able to enforce a suspense of operations today? No.” Shear said that the company has been “working around the clock to do all the right things,” including halting all corporate support for operations, marketing and supply chain support, and refusing approvals for new investment and expansion.

Netflix looks to curb password sharing
Netflix is exploring ways to curb password sharing as part of a shift in focus from subscriber growth to higher yield per subscriber. According to Variety, Netflix plans to test a new “Extra Member” pricing structure in Chile, Costa Rica and Peru, that will allow users to add two additional accounts from outside their household for less than the price of a new membership. The test comes as Netflix’s subscriber growth has cooled, with more than 90% of its growth in 2021 coming from outside the U.S. and Canada. Password sharing is a relatively common occurrence, Variety noted, with about 36% of Americans indicating they share their login details with relatives, and 13% do so with friends. The company recently announced its third subscription hike in three years in mature markets, but has expressed confidence in its ability to add subscribers in markets where its penetration is relatively low, such as much of the Asia-Pacific region, and Europe, Middle East and Africa.

Should the word ‘consumer’ be retired?
The word “consumer” has become commonplace in the world of business. It’s technically correct, of course: We all consume, after all. But according to Quartz, there is growing debate about whether there should be a less reductive and more humanistic way of describing people or citizens. “Fundamentally, they say, we shouldn’t view people through the lens of what they acquire, devour, or use up,” says the article. It says that as companies continue to embrace concepts like carbon neutrality and the circular economy, they’re becoming uncomfortable with the word consumer and seeking out less loaded alternatives. The movement has also gained momentum in the world of academia, with the Journal of Consumer Research stating in an editorial this year that some members of its community “cringe or sneer” at the word consumer. “We must examine that tendency and do more to happily embrace the consumer focus of our domain,” it stated.

Minnie Mouse drops a new album
Disney released a new album last week featuring 10 lofi hip-hop versions of some of its most famous tracks, such as Aladdin‘s “A Whole New World” and The Lion King‘s “Hakuna Matata.” Lofi is a genre of mostly instrumental music that is usually recorded with intentional imperfections and a beat that supposedly mirrors the human heartbeat and triggers the brain to help with focus. The genre’s been around for years, but reportedly surged in popularity during the pandemic. The new album, “Lofi Minnie: Focus” is “curated” by Minnie Mouse, and the 10-track album even includes a Study Girl-esque video of Minnie at her desk. “Disney and Minnie Mouse are a natural fit with lofi, especially with Minnie’s interests in creativity, music, and wellness leaning into lofi’s penchant for self-expression and its calming meditative properties,” said Disney.

Starbucks is going green
Starbucks is pushing ahead with its goal to cut waste and reduce carbon emissions by pledging to make reusable cups an option for every order in Canada and the U.S.—including mobile and drive-thru—by next year. According to CNBC, Starbucks uses about seven billion disposable cups each year, representing about 40% of its packaging waste. The company has offered its customers incentives to bring their own cups for years, but few customers do so. Starbucks is running tests across the U.S. to see how it can improve uptake, including different financial incentives like a 10-cent fee for a single use cup and a 50-cent discount for a reusable, said CNBC. “What we’ve learned from our consumer research is that even the most ardent champions of sustainability really do not claim that they carry a reusable cup around with them,” Amelia Landers, Starbucks’ vice president of product innovation, told CNBC in an interview.

David Brown