Bud Light – The Importance of Understanding Potential Minefields in your Messaging

May 7, 2015

Bud Light recently ran in to some trouble with its “Up for Whatever” campaign. The issue highlights the importance of not getting too carried away when running a lighthearted and whimsical campaign that you could inadvertently become offensive or insensitive with. The campaign encourages people to be open-minded and go with the flow when it comes to a fun night out. They should realize that this could be dangerous water when promoting an alcoholic beverage. While not promoting irresponsible behavior, it is a fine line when you are promoting beer while telling people to be “Up for whatever”.

The controversy came when they put a tagline on their bottles that read, “The perfect beer for removing ‘no’ from your vocabulary for the night”. I don’t think that any reasonable person would look at that line and not have some concerns. Yet this same line allegedly went through five layers of approvals. This is astounding.

Anyone in a leadership position for such a prominent brand should be saying to himself, “I like this campaign, but we need to be careful that we don’t get carried away and go too far”. Apparently, that filter was not in place for the team at Bud Light.

As could be expected, the social media universe caught fire where users accused Bud Light of promoting a “rape culture”. I won’t go that far, I doubt that they consciously did that. However, at a minimum, they are guilty of horrible judgement and insensitivity. This episode highlights the need to have a filter in place and not get carried away. Communicators need to understand their product and intended message have the potential for creating a horrible misinterpretation if not communicated clearly and in proper context. The dangers in this campaign are clearly that alcohol consumption and bad decisions sometimes go hand in hand. With this message, they need to understand that there is a fine line between harmless fun and irresponsible behavior. Removing the word “no” from your vocabulary and consuming alcohol is a disaster waiting to happen.

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