Bud Light got into trouble recently over a label statement that critics characterized as promoting a culture of rape.
One of the scroll messages used by the company as part of its “Up for Whatever” campaign read: “The perfect beer for removing ‘no’ from your vocabulary for the night. #upforwhatever.”
Although Anheuser-Busch said the messages were “intended to inspire spontaneous fun,” this one inspired a firestorm of controversy on social media and beyond.
Reaction ranged from dismay to outrage, with tweets ranging from a comment that Bud Light “just got super rapey,” to a commenter asking the brewmaker to define consent, and yet another “calling the Bud Light PR Team, you’re needed for clean up in the stupid/thoughtless decisions aisle.”
Even lawmakers got involved, with Rep. Nita Lowey (D-N.Y.) tweeting: “RT if you agree @budlight #UpForWhatever campaign should promote responsible—not reckless—drinking. #NoMeansNo.” Rep. Lowey followed up with a statement taking Anheuser-Busch to task. “This grossly shortsighted marketing tactic shows an epic lack of understanding of the dangers associated with excessive alcohol consumption, such as sexual assault and drunk driving. We need responsible companies to help us tackle these serious health public health and safety problems, not encourage them.”
The company apologized in a tweet that the “message missed the mark” and that Anheuser-Busch “would never condone disrespectful or irresponsible behavior.” It later followed up with a statement that “No means no. … We’ve stopped producing this label.”
Why it matters: The label misstep—and resulting media backlash—has already had a real impact on Bud Light. ListenFirst, a data analytics company, reported that in the days following the controversy, there were 45,600 tweets about Bud Light. For comparison purposes, ListenFirst said there were 3,900 tweets during the same time period last year. And a measurement of daily brand consumer perception by YouGov BrandIndex reported that the beer’s “buzz” fell from a 6 (the average score for domestic beers is 4) to 0, with the rating among women dropping from a 5 to a -3.