Bud Light Woes

Are we overly sensitive or is A-B InBev thoughtless?

Last week Bud Light shot itself in the foot (or was it the can?) with it’s “Up for Whatever” campaign. The campaign involves

The package
The package

slogans on the packaging including this one: “The perfect beer for removing ‘no’ from your vocabulary for the night.” This message is one of 140 different slogans that appear on the package.

If the intent of the overall campaign is to create a dialogue with consumers on social media, then be careful of what you wish for. This slogan drew a firestorm of criticism due to its insensitivity on the subject of “no means no” and date rape.

In a wide range of news outlets (from Ad Age to USA Today) the company was taken to task for this … this what? Insensitivity. Stupidity. You name it.

The primary mission of alcohol marketing and communications is responsibility in messaging. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard or used this adage: The appearance of impropriety is as bad as the impropriety itself. This slogan goes way beyond that.

Who is to blame?

According to the Wall Street Journal, there were five layers of approvals given to the slogan. But, that didn’t stop the company from blaming the ad agency. Sorry folks, the blame ends with the marketing department at A-B InBev. If you’re in the alcohol business you need to be cautious with what you say and how you say it.

Someone at the company thought the ‘cuteness’ of the slogan made it compelling and no one had the sense to think about the depth of meaning. Don’t these marketing geniuses know what’s going on in the world?

It seems to me that in their zeal to appear hip and clever, they’ve lost sight of the business they are in. Or, they don’t have the appropriate safeguards in place.

The best comment on this fiasco I’ve read comes from Harry Schumacher at Beer Business Daily:

I can see that A-B was talking about “No” meaning not saying no to new experiences, not in a sexual context.  But the issue of date rape is front and center right now, and it’s completely inconceivable to me that nobody in the vast organization of A-B, including their ad agencies, didn’t see that this message could be misconstrued in a sexual context and give it the nix.  Are they not reading anything in the popular press?  It’s a very sensitive subject and it suggests that at the very least A-B’s ad agency who produced this message has a tin ear.

So the answer to my question is that it has nothing to do with the public being overly sensitive. It’s about Bud Light being out of touch at best, or just plain irresponsible, at worst.

(For an interesting look at this subject, check out John Oliver’s take from HBO’s Last Week Tonight with John Oliver here.)

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