Bud Light’s #UpForWhatever campaign, while successful at first because of the lighthearted nature of the slogan, missed the mark after printing the phrase, “The perfect beer for removing ‘no’ from your vocabulary for the night.” Many people saw this as a result of rape culture, with the people responsible for the phrase not understanding the implication of sexual assault. The “Up For Whatever” campaign started back in 2014, and up until this mistake was considered widely successful. Bud Light’s target demographic of young people in their 20’s was very receptive to the fun-loving commercials and social media posts related to the campaign, however this mistake printed on a batch of Bud Light products proved that even the greatest campaigns can ultimately fail. While the blunder began on a physical product, the backlash the company received was generated mostly on social media before it was picked up by major news sources.
The original purpose of the campaign was to go along with their happy-go-lucky motto, however this phrase pushed it a little too far. While this is the phrase that is cited the most when it comes to Bud Light, it is actually not the first time that sexual assault was insinuated because of one of their posts. On St. Patrick’s Day in 2015, Bud Light tweeted, “On St. Patrick’s Day you can pinch people who don’t wear green. You can also pinch people who aren’t #UpForWhatever.” This post was quickly deleted after Twitter users deemed this an excuse for sexual assault and unwanted physical attention.
Sexual assault is a huge topic on college campuses right now, which is perhaps a huge reason that Bud Light’s target demographic of college-age men and women responded so negatively to the St. Patrick’s Day tweet and “removing no” phrase. While Bud Light may not have intended for the phrases to reference sexual assault, many have asked how such a saying could sneak past 155,000 employees without being halted before production. Industry leader Kat Gordon cited this problem as fearful subordinates being too afraid to tell a creative director that something they’ve come up with is a bad idea. The Vice President of the Anheuser-Busch Company released a statement on their official website saying, “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.
This particular aspect of the campaign was clearly a social fail. Thousands of people took to Twitter to express their outrage, and many vowed to not purchase Bud Light until the issue was addressed and rectified. One tweet read, “@budlight, no means no. This ad perpetuates rap culture,” and it was retweeted and favorited over 300 times. The problem was addressed by well-respected public figures as well, with Democratic Congresswoman Nita Lowey tweeting, “RT if you agree @budlight #UpForWhatever campaign should promote responsible – not reckless – drinking. #NoMeansNo” Benj Steinman, publisher of Beer Marketer’s Insights, stated that the company seemed, “kind of tone deaf,” referencing both the “removing no” phrase as well as the St. Patrick’s Day tweet.
After reading about the campaign, I would change the way the creative and planning teams research their demographic. Many of their consumers are women, so I would hold focus groups with young women in their 20’s to better understand what they want to see in an alcohol campaign. With so much of the conversation about sexual assault and rape culture surrounding alcohol and intoxication, it would be best to make sure alcoholic beverage slogans were tested among women in the demographic before being sent to production or posted on social media.