Let’s talk about Bud Light – more specifically their #UpForWhatever campaign that included the slogan, “The perfect beer for removing ‘no’ from your vocabulary for the night.”
When I first saw the tagline pop up on social media yesterday, I was convinced that it had to be a bad joke from a parody account. How else could you explain something so unbelievably callous? But it was very much real.
Following the outrage, Bud Light issued a statement:
The Bud Light Up for Whatever campaign, now in its second year, has inspired millions of consumers to engage with our brand in a positive and light-hearted way. In this spirit, we created more than 140 different scroll messages intended to encourage brand engagement. 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.
As a PR professional, I’d say that statement “missed the mark” – in that it didn’t bother to apologize for what I would consider, at best, a totally outrageous oversight.
And I say “at best” because I’m no stranger to the approval process. I once got into an argument with Marketing about being able to use the word “blue” to describe a color. So I find it hard to believe that the first person to take issue with this label was a random consumer sitting on his couch.
To add insult to injury, WSJ’s CMO Today added this line to their piece on the topic: “About half of the people who reviewed the troublesome label are women, a spokesman said, including members of the legal team led by Anheuser-Busch General Counsel Katie Barrett.”
As though that has anything to do with it. Are we supposed to find this mistake any less reprehensible because it slipped by an equal number of men and women? Perhaps that’s the real problem: we’re relying on a single group to take on this issue when everyone should share the responsibility. (Although, seriously ladies… WTF? Get your head in the game.)
In any case, I’ve seen several news outlets and industry experts predict that “Up For Whatever” will take down the Bud Light marketing team. I highly doubt it.
Here’s why: I did a bit of digging to see if any similar corporate fails in the past led to significant marketing changes. I came up empty. That’s not to say it’s never happened, just that I can’t find much to support the idea. I’d love to see an article either confirming that theory or disproving it. In fact, I’d write it myself but I have a desk job keeping me busy.
Instead, I expect Bud Light will let this issue play out over the next few days and then quietly move on to their next questionable campaign, which from what I can tell is hosting a party in a made-up town called, “Whatever, USA” for “a three-day celebration” of “spontaneous, unexpected fun” with 1000 of the brand’s biggest fans, celebrities and other people who apparently have nothing better to do.
Sounds magical. Let’s hope that in between all their “spontaneous, unexpected fun” they add a few lines to the agenda about how serious they are about not condoning any of that “disrespectful and irresponsible behavior.” It’s the least they could do.
But again. I highly doubt it.
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