removing no bud

Budweiser has to be proud of its popular “up for anything” ad campaign, but, not everyone is pleased with some of the beer company’s messaging. Recently, Bud has been putting various “up for anything” based messages on bottles of Bud Light. For the most part, these are party-hearty, upbeat slogans that could be shouted after a beer or three. One message, though, has a lot of people upset.

Here’s the message:

“The perfect beer for removing ‘no’ from your vocabulary for the night.”

Now, in a societal vacuum, that slogan could easily mean “be ready for anything that could happen,” be “up for whatever.” But, in certain sections of cyberspace, the conversation about “rape culture” never ends. With that as a backdrop, the message takes on an entirely new, and nefarious, meaning. And, anyone not tone-deaf to the strength of these perspectives online and on social media, would have understood the firestorm that soon erupted. Angry messages began landing on Bud Light’s Facebook page as well as, of course, on Twitter.

One particularly high-profile complaint read: “This grossly shortsighted marketing tactic shows an epic lack of understanding of the dangers associated with excessive alcohol consumptions, such as sexual assault and drunk driving.”

Now, one might tacitly point out that, A, this company sells beer and wants to sell a LOT of beer… so “excessive” may not be in their vocabulary. And, B, anyone who over-uses adverbs and employs superlatives such as “epic” may not, exactly, be taken seriously. Well, the person pointing that out should also consider themselves entirely tone-deaf to the cacophony of voices on the web. What might have been a superfluous criticism a decade ago now has real weight.

Bud Light responded by promising not to print that slogan on any more bottles, and the furor quickly died down. There are multiple lessons that can be learned from this episode. First, shrill complaints from people who don’t “get it” can quickly gain traction online. Marketers beware. Second, just because you think it’s funny doesn’t mean anyone else will. If you put out a message, make sure there is no ambiguity or opportunity for said message to be misconstrued. And, finally, if your slogan can, in any way, be understood – or misunderstood – to promote rape, change that slogan before anyone else has a chance to hear or see it. Bottom line, be both self and market aware … or prepared to face the PR consequences.