Article by Brittany Carpenter | esPResso Committee Member
It seems that Bud Light has failed to learn from its mistakes. The brand is facing controversy yet again over its latest slogan for the #UpForWhatever campaign. Meant to inspire spontaneity, Bud Light promotes itself as “The perfect beer for whatever happens.” However when you take the first phrase, and couple it with the phrase “The perfect beer for removing ‘no’ from your vocabulary for the night,” the company is under fire and is being accused of promoting rape culture. The company’s public relations team was forced to step in and take over damage control.
The phrase in question appears on a blue ribbon around the bottom of the company’s beer bottles. Paired with 140 other taglines, Bud Light has been using #UpForWhatever for the past two years to encourage people to be adventurous. However, this particular tagline has caused massive outrage. The brand is closely associated with college culture and in light of the recent outcry against college date rape, the slogan has struck a nerve with consumers.
“Miss Representation,” a documentary about affecting positive change for women, encouraged Twitter users to call out Bud Light on its tasteless tagline through the hashtag #NotBuyingIt. To make matters worse for the company, Democratic Congresswoman Nita Lowey tweeted her disapproval using the hashtag #NoMeansNo. Within a few short hours Anheuser-Busch, the brand’s parent company, picked up on the negative press it was receiving and released 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.”
This is not the first time Budweiser has received accusations of promoting rape culture. According to a Fox News report in March, Bud Light also faced criticism for an #UpForWhatever St. Patrick’s Day tweet. Critics say that the company’s post encouraged the tradition of pinching someone on St. Patrick’s Day that has been viewed as an excuse to drunkenly harass women.
Consumers took to Twitter to let Bud Light know of their disapproval. The tweet was deleted and an apology statement on behalf of Bud Light was issued. Again, Bud Light was quick to act, but not quick enough to stop the onslaught of backlash. Nick Kelly, a Bud Light spokesperson, told Business Insider, “We understand that some people misunderstood our St. Patrick’s Day post and we want to apologize to everyone who was offended. Our intention was only to be playful and celebrate the holiday.”
These incidents should serve as a reminder for companies to proceed with caution when using social media to promote products. Twitter has consistently proved to be an outlet where consumers’ opinions can greatly affect a company’s image, especially over a short span of time. In both of these instances Bud Light acted within a two-hour window to release an apology statement but the company still suffered from negative press that discouraged consumers from purchase its products. Bud Light was smart to cease production of bottles with the offensive #UpForWhatever tagline; however, it failed to take the steps to pull bottles already in circulation from the market. This could prove to be an additional problem for the company’s image. Perhaps it’s time for Bud Light to respectfully retire this campaign and instead have its public relations team focus on rebuilding a positive reputation for the brand.