by Jonah Ort
Bud Light’s idea was simple enough: show off your carefree, party-hard attitude with #UpForWhatever. The campaign was huge for Budweiser; it lasted over a year and even had a Super Bowl ad attached to it. Bud Light’s hope was for consumers to associate the Bud Light brand with spontaneity, rebelliousness, and fun.
The primarily Twitter-focused campaign poised itself to be a Social Win, tweeting fun things to do while going out with #UpForWhatever. That is, until two gaffes turned the campaign into perhaps the biggest Social Fail of 2015.
It all started on Saint Patrick’s Day of 2015. Bud Light tweeted: “On #StPatrickDay you can pinch people who don’t wear green. You can also pinch people who aren’t #UpForWhatever.”
As anyone but Bud Light could’ve predicted, this set off some serious backlash. Consent is a serious subject that someone on Bud Light’s marketing team did not take very seriously. Twitter users slammed Bud Light for the insensitive tweet. One female Twitter user suggested spreading #UpForThingsIExplicitlyConsentTo as a response.
The tweet was quickly deleted. But it wouldn’t be the end of Bud Light’s issues with understanding of consent.
The following month, Bud Light started making bottles promoting the #UpForWhatever campaign. Here’s one particular bottle:
It pretty much speaks for itself: the message of not saying “no” can easily allude to issues of consent and rape. Anyone remotely in-tune with modern college life would know that consent is a big discussion point among college campuses; one in five college women are sexual assault victims.
Though the controversy started on a beer can, the backlash ended up on Twitter. One user tweeted that “I’m not #UpForWhatever if #UpForWhatever means a lack of consent and rape, sorry beer bros.”
Bud Light was quick to comment and stated that they “missed the mark” and “would never condone disrespectful or irresponsible behavior.”
However, it was too late. Numerous news outlets reported the offensive bottle, and the entire integrated campaign was in shambles. It actually ended up broadening the ongoing dialogue about alcohol and consent on college campuses, which might be the only positive thing to come from the controversy.
I have two tips for Bud Light moving forward. First off, hire some women, because there’s no way a woman looked at that tweet and thought it was OK. The fact that the bottle got through numerous editors and packagers shows that there’s something seriously amiss with Bud Light’s work culture. The “beer bro” demographic that the one Twitter user mentioned may include the majority of Bud Light’s marketing staff as well.
Secondly, if Bud Light’s targeting Millennials and college students, they should probably do some light Googling about current college politics and issues. It doesn’t take a nuanced view of rape culture to know the tweet and that bottle were insensitive. Saying they “missed the mark” is pretty light language regarding a sensitive issue that commands respect.
Bud Light wanted women to remove “no” from their vocabulary, but “no” is exactly what women are telling Bud Light.
Garcia, A. (2015, March 17). Bud Light’s Awful St. Patrick’s Tweet: Pinch Women Who Aren’t ‘Up For Whatever’ Retrieved February 07, 2016, from http://talkingpointsmemo.com/livewire/bud-light-up-for-whatever-tweet
Ive, N. (2015, January 16). Real-Life Pac-Man? See Bud Light’s #UpForWhatever Teaser (and a Trailer Load of Other Super Bowl Previews). Retrieved February 07, 2016, from http://adage.com/article/special-report-super-bowl/bud-light-a-trailer-load-super-bowl-previews/296634/
Monllos, K. (2015, April 28). Bud Light Says It ‘Missed the Mark’ With Line About ‘Removing No From Your Vocabulary’ Retrieved February 07, 2016, from http://www.adweek.com/news/advertising-branding/bud-light-says-it-missed-mark-tagline-about-removing-no-your-vocabulary-164374
Pallotta, F. (2015, April 28). Bud Light’s #UpForWhatever slogan causes social media uproar. Retrieved February 07, 2016, from http://money.cnn.com/2015/04/28/media/bud-light-bottle-slogan-uproar/
Parish, W. (2015, March 17). Bud Light’s St. Patrick’s Day tweet stirs controversy. Retrieved February 07, 2016, from http://www.marketingdive.com/news/bud-lights-st-patricks-day-tweet-stirs-controversy/376327/
Zaino, J. (2015, July 21). Changing Definitions of Sexual Consent on College Campuses | Inside Higher Ed. Retrieved February 07, 2016, from https://www.insidehighered.com/blogs/university-venus/changing-definitions-sexual-consent-college-campuses