Case Study from Bud Light on Sex in Advertising – Strategy with RS
Bud Light is a ‘mass’ beer brand. If you were the Marketing head of the brand what strategy would you come up with to make each bottle unique? Yes each bottle unique without modifying the blend.
Bud Light’s team came with ‘Up For Whatever’ campaign. It sought to engage with its customers in a light hearted & fun manner by putting entertaining message on every bottle. For this It crafted over 140 different fun messages. For example, one message read – ‘Perfect beer for singing loud even if you don’t know the words.’
As a part of this campaign a set of bottles bearing sexual innuendo reached the market – ‘ The perfect beer for removing ‘no’ from your vocabulary for the night.’ Backlash came in fast & furious. It was felt that this message encouraged alcoholic fuelled rape culture. And customers started associating words like, ‘reckless’, ‘insensitive’ ’disrespectful’, ‘irresponsible’ with Bud Light.
Of course, Anheuser-Bush, the brand owner quickly tweeted out an apology: “We missed the mark on a new Bud Light bottle, and we regret it.’
But the question that we need to answer – does sex in advertising help sell the product? The answer is an explicit ‘no’. Sex in advertising is cursed with the ‘Vampire Effect’ – sex is like a vampire … it is capable of selling only itself … people remember ‘sex’ & normally forget the brand associated with it.
But you will counter argue saying that it manages to create buzz. But what kind of buzz? Negative buzz!
I believe that brands which survive over time consider a few traits sacrosanct – trust, reputation & relationship with their customers. Any strategy which seeks to weaken them is shunned.
Take Bud Light. As a result of this misadventure the brand started getting associated with traits like,‘reckless’, ‘insensitive’ ’disrespectful’, ‘irresponsible’ . These traits weaken the bond of trust between the customer & the brand & cause irreparable damage to the reputation of the brand.
Moreover will you wish to have a relationship with a brand which is associated with these terms of endearment? Many customers may not. Because when you buy a brand it ‘talks’ about you to your friends – what you stand for. And many customers may not want to looked upon as being ‘reckless’, ‘insensitive’, ’disrespectful’ & ‘irresponsible’.
Business learning for us: Shun sexual innuendo in advertising. Sex does not sell anything except itself. It does manage to generate negative buzz which could harm your brand in the long run.
In this series, Rajesh Srivastava, Business Strategist and Visiting Faculty at IIM Indore gives you a regular dose of strategy case studies to help you think and keep you one step ahead as a professional as compared to your peers. Rajesh is an alumnus of IIM Bangalore and IIT Kanpur and has over 2 decades of experience in the FMCG industry. All previous Strategy with RS posts can be found here