By: Alexandria Schell
Dubbed the ‘date rape beer’, Bud Light faced a PR crisis no organization ever wanted. However, promoting rape culture is an avoidable nightmare.
As a successful campaign, #UpForWhatever initially inspired people to try new things and have fun while drinking Bud Light, after it appeared in their 2014 Super Bowl commercial. The purpose was to coincide fun and adventure with drinking Bud Light. In 2015, consumers of Bud Light noticed the hashtag on the bottle’s label alongside one of 100+ different slogans, stating how the popular beer is “perfect for” almost any situation. “The perfect beer for starting a conga line,” is one of those messages promoted by the hashtag. This encouraged consumers to take pictures of their adventures while drinking Bud Light using #UpForWhatever. The campaign was meant to engage consumers with the larger community of those ready for a good time, such as starting a conga line. Promoting lightheartedness and trying new things was the overall goal for Bud Light.
Upon the launch of the #UpForWhatever campaign, Ad Age interviewed VP of Bud Light branding, Alex Lambrecht. “These ‘Up for Whatever’ messages on Bud Light bottles are going to play a key role in practically everything we do in 2015,” said Lambrecht. Performing well in the first three months of 2015, Bud Light’s hashtag was indeed creating that sought-after genuine social media engagement. Bud Light was not prepared for what was about to happen.
For St. Patrick’s Day, Bud Light tweeted “You can also pinch people who aren’t #UpForWhatever.” This caused a slight uproar and required apology number one from the beer brand.
Just several weeks later, the slogan “the perfect beer for removing ‘no’ from your vocabulary for the night” began appearing on Bud Light bottles and cans alongside the successful hashtag.
Recently, rape culture awareness has spread across the world, especially college campuses, Bud Light’s target market. Alcohol is now known to be the drug that most rapes have in common. In addition, the “no means no” slogan has picked up steam to reinforce the stance against rape. This lapse of judgement could not have been worse timing for the Anheuser Busch company.
Immediately, the social media community blew up in fury. This quickly spread to news outlets and even had political officials tweeting its new-found disrespect for Bud Light. Apologetically, the beer brand pulled the slogan from its campaign.
“It’s clear that this message missed the mark, and we regret it. We would never condone disrespectful or irresponsible behavior,” said Lambrecht.
Initially, the campaign had good intentions. With several terrible lapses in judgement, #UpForWhatever quickly turned into a huge social media failure. The most desirable and difficult market for any beer company is winning the hearts and dollars of adult women. Both mishaps directly related to the #UpForWhatever campaign hinted at rape and consent issues, making women feel targeted for the worst reasons. These mistakes received so much negative press that women can’t help but associate #UpForWhatever with rape. For these reasons, the campaign has been permanently damaged and cannot be fixed. No company should ever have one of these mistakes. Yet, Bud Light somehow managed to screw up twice within weeks of each other.
Instead of allowing the campaign to continue, out of respect for rape and sexual assault victims everywhere, Bud Light should have pulled the campaign and hashtag altogether. However, they didn’t. Bud Light simply took the one slogan out of their labeling. This was not enough. A new, empowering hashtag should have replaced #UpForWhatever. #UpForConsent would have been an appropriate and applaudable replacement. Bud Light should not have continued its use of the tainted hashtag and tattered campaign.
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