Bud Light’s “removing ‘no’ from your vocabulary” tagline merits a better apology
Dear Bud Light and BBDO:
Look, I get that alcohol marketing is primarily about marketing the promise of uninhibited fun. After all, alcohol’s key value proposition is lowered inhibitions, which allow many people the freedom do participate in activities they typically wouldn’t. And a lot of those activities can be quite fun. Much like the lottery, your job is to sell the best promise of your product, not to provide a balanced view of the full effects of your product.
That being said, referencing “removing ‘no’ from your vocabulary for the night,” one of the tag lines of the Up For Whatever campaign, did more than “miss the mark.” It might as well have read “removing ‘no’ from her vocabulary for the night.” In a world where colleges and universities are struggling every day to prevent sexual assault by teaching the next generation to ask for and respect consent, there you are, back in the 1960s, teaching everyone that the only fun to be had is without consent. That tagline reeks of “boys will be boys” and throwing not only caution but also consent to the wind.
Basically, the reason you’re getting accused of being a little rapey is because your ad is a little rapey.
And your half-assed apology isn’t doing it for anyone. So let’s talk about how to apologize properly.
How to apologize
So what’s a corporation to do in this situation? Here’s the thing to do. It’s the same thing that every corporation (or politician or boyfriend or wife) should always do for building trust: cowboy/girl up and apologize.
Here is my three-step PR apology kit:
- First, apologize. For real. Heartfelt. Sincere. Acknowledge that you fucked up. Do not use the passive voice. Do not let your lawyers write the apology. Use the active voice, and write like you’re speaking to your grandmother. Do not “regret any inconvenience” and for heaven’s sake, don’t “regret that some took it badly.” Just admit in so many words that you made a mistake. Your audience will forgive you, but only if you actually apologize.
- Acknowledge your audience (including the women). Reaffirm what your brand stands for and that your audience is what makes your brand strong and successful.
- Show you’ve learned A wise brand learns from its mistakes. After the Superbowl debacle, GoDaddy fired its CEO and used more inclusive ad campaigns. We all grow and learn. Promise to be more conscientious in the future, and we’ll begin to trust your brand again.
Here’s an example:
Recently, we included a tagline on some of our bottles as part of the Up For Whatever campaign. This campaign is designed to encourage a spirit of adventure and light-hearted fun, but this particular tagline did just the opposite.
The “removing ‘no’ from your vocabulary for the night” tagline was a mistake. We want everyone who drinks Bud Light to both have fun and be responsible. And this time, we failed to convey that.
We’re sorry, and we will work in the future to earn back your trust in Bud Light’s ability to provide a fun and safe night for all our fans.