Bud Light label promises to turn ‘no’ into ‘yes,’ draws backlash… again

Bud Light label promises to turn ‘no’ into ‘yes,’ draws backlash… again

Bud Light’s #UpforWhatever campaign is up for debate once again after a bottle label promising to remove “no” from the drinker’s vocabulary for the night sparked backlash against the brand.


With a message that is nearly impossible to detach from implications of sexual consent, the public responded in outrage with claims that the tagline seemed like an overt perpetuation of rape culture.


In response to the backlash, bottles featuring the controversial tagline were pulled from shelves. Bud Light parent company, Anheuser-Busch, issued the following statement:

The Bud Light #UpforWhatever 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.


Close up of a Bud Light bottle, showing the questionable phrase which was removed from shelves.

Bud Light finds itself in another PR crisis surrounding its questionable phrasing on bottles for the #UpforWhatever campaign. (kansascity.com)

Unfortunately for Bud Light, this is a bit of a déjà vu moment for the brand, which faced backlash less than two months ago following a similarly controversial social media post on St. Patrick’s Day.


Bud Light is proving to suffer from a chronic inability to build clear and appropriate messages around its #UpforWhatever campaign. While the concept is actually built on a cool idea, the message has been clouded by ill-advised marketing choices.


It is evident that the brand’s true crisis, however, is its inability to learn from its mistakes.


Having found itself in a tough spot following its St. Patrick’s Day blunder, Bud Light should have known to tread carefully regarding how it represented itself and its #UpforWhatever campaign in the public eye. At the very least, the brand was expected to respect its initial apology.


Having failed to do so, its undeniable that the blow to the brand will be bigger this time around, as current public backlash is as much about anger over the trigger — i.e. the label and tagline — as it is about a loss of trust and confidence in the brand.


While remorse and an apology may have cut it for Bud Light on St. Patrick’s Day, it will take more than the usual crisis communications formula to remedy this situation.


Do you think it will be hard for Bud Light to salvage its brand image after making a similar mistake twice over the course of several weeks? Share your thoughts below or tweet me @tamarahoumi

Tamara Rahoumi

Tamara Rahoumi is a third-culture kid of Egyptian descent who was born and raised in New Jersey. She loves experiencing new things, and is in a constant state of wanderlust. She has spent a year studying in Switzerland and another teaching in Albania. Tamara graduated from Rutgers University, where she studied political science and cultural anthropology. She reports on a variety of stories for MUIPR. Follow Tamara on twitter @tamarahoumi.

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