In an industry synonymous with questionable morals and risky behavior, alcohol companies need to pay special attention to how they market their products. As part of Bud Light’s #UpForWhatever campaign, they rolled out 140 messages on bottles highlighting that Bud Light will take away any inhibitions holding you back from a good time. The campaign had a long, successful run, thanks to it’s fun, light-hearted feel. Until one message slipped through the marketing team that caused an uproar on social media. The message printed on the blue label stated that Bud Light is “The perfect beer for removing ‘No’ from your vocabulary for the night.” An image of the first surfaced on Reddit and quickly spread through the Internet, complete with plenty of backlash.
It’s safe to assume that whoever came up with this had no intention of offending anyone, but many believe that the message is unintentionally promoting rape culture, as well as reckless behavior like drunk driving. People were quick to react on social media, posting things like, “What story do you tell with your brand? For Bud Light, it’s ‘Screw consent. Date rape is awesome!’ #UpForWhatever.” Thousands of responses like this were directed at the beer company using other hashtags like #NoMeansNo. Some even said that the message also advocates drinkers to drive drunk.
Bud Light swiftly issued an apology on their website. A statement by vice president Alexander Lambrecht reads, “It’s clear that this particular message missed the mark, and we regret it. We would never condone disrespectful or irresponsible behavior. As a result, we have immediately ceased production of this message on all bottles.” The company did not release what percentage of bottles had the offensive message printed on them, and it’s hard to say how many are out there because of the number of taglines they released in the campaign.
The damage had been done to the brand, and this isn’t the first time that the Anheuser-Busch company has landed in hot water recently. In celebration of Saint Patrick’s Day in 2015, Bud Light tweeted out, “On St. Patrick’s Day you can pinch people who don’t wear green. You can also pinch people who aren’t #UpForWhatever.” The tweet was quickly deleted after the public took it as promoting sexual harassment and voiced their concerns. It’s hard to fathom how such sexist remarks can make it through such a large company without any questions. Some believe that females in large companies are too intimidated to voice their concerns. After all, Anheuser-Busch only has one female in an executive position.
Sexual Assault is a huge issue in today’s society, especially in the segment that Bud Light targets – college-aged men and women. Bud Light is paying the price for its lack of attention to detail on all fronts, especially social media, where these young men and women are most active. Anheuser-Busch had struggled to hit the female market for years, until the recent release of non-beer products such as the Lime-A-Rita and other mixed drink options. Unfortunately, I feel this company has taken a big step back. The company is new at hitting the female market, so research is needed within the company to accurately market to women. All in all, let’s just agree that the people at Bud Light committed a complete #SocialFail that should’ve been thrown out at the first meeting. How the message made it into the final 140, we may never know.
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