Thoughts on Bud Light’s ‘Up for Whatever’ Campaign

An analysis for my Public Relations Management class

What happened?

In 2013 Bud Light created the ‘Up for Whatever’ campaign which has received harsh criticisms and misinterpretations since its launch. In 2015, Bud Light bottles included the slogan, “The perfect beer for removing ‘no’ from your vocabulary for the night,” on its bottles. Shortly after, images and posts of enraged customers began popping up on social media, saying that this motto was too casual for comfort and subliminally justified and encouraged rape culture.

After much controversy, Bud Light’s VP Alexander Lambrecht, released a statement on the company’s website apologizing for the message and explaining that the message would no longer be used in the Up for Whatever Campaign. Instead of pulling the entire campaign like many suggested, Lambrecht only pulled that specific message.

His statement read, “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 spontaneous fun. It’s clear that this message missed the mark, and we regret it. We would never condone disrespectful or irresponsible behavior.”

Goals and Objectives

Bud Light’s original goal was to connect with the college audience and position themselves as a carefree, lighthearted, spontaneous brand that caters to the slogan of “up for whatever” and “whatever happens next” instead of saying no to new experiences. While some bottles may have said more encouraging messages such as “perfect beer for when you’re eating breakfast meats outside of breakfast hours,” many people couldn’t get over the more concerning labels.

The actual outcome of the campaign was harsh criticism of the Bud Light brand, as celebrities, public officials and college students all dubbed Bud Light the “date rape beer.” It became a heated conversation on Twitter, with hardly anyone taking Bud Light’s side in the case. Many users went straight to questioning the thought process of the entire corporation and associated the bad judgment of the campaign with bad judgment by the company. The only positive thing that came out of the failed campaign was a large amount of online involvement in the conversation on rape culture. Bud Light did take the opportunity to take a stance on sexual harassment to explain how they do not condone it or associate it with the mission of their campaign, and that they find it unacceptable. Though the reception of the campaign was negative, Bud Light did reach their goal of attracting young people by using social media. They wanted to advertise to college students, and did so with social media engagement despite the positive and negative reactions. In this case, publicity was the only positive outcome of the campaign.

Research

Bud Light used social media outlets like Instagram and Twitter to research social media users responses to the campaign. There was over 15 million forms of user-generated content and 37,000 social media posts (Pleener, 2015). Since the campaign blew up in the press, Bud Light also used news and media outlets such as Ad Age, AdWeek, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and USA Today to examine various critiques from the press about their campaign. User-generated responses on social media and emotional posts by bloggers led Bud Light to disappointing findings and interpretations from the public.

With a quick Google search of the campaign, these were the headlines that popped up:

· “Bud Light’s Lighthearted ‘Up for Whatever’ Campaign Takes a Dark Turn”

· “Bud Light’s #UpForWhatever brews outrage”

· “Bud Light pulls controversial tag in ‘Up For Whatever’ campaign”

· “‘No’ means ‘up for whatever,’ according to the latest Bud Light slogan”

· “Bud Light’s No means Up for Whatever: The worst possible slogan”

Lessons Learned

Bud Light should have been more considerate of what was going on in the news and the rise of rape culture among young adults in the US. The phrase “Up For Anything” could have stood alone and taken on a positive meaning without the additional “the removing ‘no’ from your vocabulary for the night.”

This implies that the public relations profession should be more considerate to what’s going on in the news and how their target demographic might respond to certain phrases. Just a simple change of a few words can change the entire meaning of their message.

The next steps after this crisis are for Bud Light to focus more on being positive and adventurous rather than encouraging bad decision-making.

Bibliography:

https://sites.psu.edu/pleeneriampr/2015/11/18/bud-lights-up-for-whatever-usa-social-media-campaign/