In the Doghouse

A-B InBev & its Marketing Won't Take No for an Answer

May 13, 2015

As two of its recent campaigns illustrate, A-B InBev doesn't like to hear the word "no" when it comes to marketing its products. As part of its Bud Light - Up for Whatever campaign, the company released bottles with labels proclaiming Bud Light "the perfect beer for removing the word 'no' from your vocabulary." On the heels of the provocative slogan came a new campaign with the Statue of Liberty on Budweiser labels, for which the National Parks Service waived its longstanding policy against promoting alcohol consumption.

After the Up for Whatever labels that sound like a pro-date-rape slogan (with multiple layers of A-B InBev approval) were released, astounded social media dubbed Bud Light the Official Beer of Rape Culture. The brand's PR machine made it worse by issuing an excuse-laden statement, making light of the serious implications of the slogan and claiming the company didn't mean any harm. A-B InBev also claimed the labels didn't present a public health or safety risk and did not pull the bottles from the shelves, despite an outcry from advocacy groups pointing out the clear and consistent role of alcohol in incidents of sexual assault, particularly on college campuses.

This just the latest incident where Bud Light promoted ignoring "no." Last September, complaints from Crested Butte, CO residents were ignored when A-B InBev took over the town for a weekend-long Bud Light-branded party.

A-B InBev's marketing arrangement with the National Parks Service waives a policy, in place since 1988, prohibiting donations from companies that would identify the NPS with alcohol or tobacco products. But the company to obtain a waiver under the guise of supporting a NPS Find Your Park centennial public awareness campaign. Clearly A-B InBev wants to increase public awareness--of its product. The NPS branding campaign clearly targets a new, young demographic with the idea that drinking Budweiser is patriotic, an integral part of outdoor recreation, and promoted by the U.S. government.

Given the ever-increasing harm caused by excessive alcohol consumption in the U.S.--nearly 88,000 deaths annually, including more than 4,300 underage youth; $293.5 billion in economic harm; and 4% of U.S. cancer deaths -- A-B InBev needs a vocab lesson. No means no.