Last week’s St. Patrick’s Day festivities — and the less than glamorous morning after — have come and gone, but Bud Light’s reputation still hasn’t fully recovered in the aftermath of an imprudent St. Paddy’s Day tweet that led to backlash against the brand.

 

Bud Light’s slogan, “Up For Whatever,” is one that the brand intended to embody notions of epic fun and endless possibilities. It’s an exciting concept, and one that was captured in a creative manner with ads like the brand’s life-size Pac-Man commercial during the 2015 Super Bowl.

 

Mix the slogan with a photo of a group of young women and the tradition of pinching people on St. Patrick’s Day, however, and suddenly you get an end result that isn’t quite so fun.

 

slate.com

slate.com

This was the nature of the crisis surrounding Bud Light’s St. Patrick’s Day tweet, in which the brand accompanied a photo of a group of young women with the caption, “On #StPatricksDay you can pinch people who don’t wear green. You can also pinch people who aren’t #UpForWhatever.”

 

The online community responded in outrage, calling the tweet a dangerous perpetuation of sexual assault and rape culture. While some claimed the backlash was uncalled for and a result of over-sensitivity, the negative responses nevertheless led to the deletion of the tweet and a statement by Bud Light spokesman Nick Kelly: “We understand that some people misunderstood our St. Patrick’s Day post, and we want to apologize to everyone who was offended. Our intention was only to be playful and celebrate the holiday.

 

From a PR standpoint, Bud Light handled the crisis well, providing a swift response to criticism in the form of corrective action and a public apology. However, we also see something troubling in the language of Bud Light’s apology that consistently appears in the apologies made on behalf of brands in crises: a redirecting of blame. By apologizing for the public’s misunderstanding, Bud Light is not apologizing for its message; it is simply apologizing that people made a mistake in understanding it.

 

Such an apology can be further damaging to a brand that is already on thin ice with consumers, as it makes it appear as though the brand is unwilling to take responsibility for its lack of foresight and the messages that it delivers to the public.


This is a clear example of the need for brands to not only respond to crises promptly but to consider the wording of said responses — wording that must simultaneously assume responsibility for a mistake, appease consumers, and salvage brand image.

 

Do you think Bud Light’s St. Patrick’s Day tweet was as offensive as many made it out to be? If so, do you believe the apology issued on the brand’s behalf was sufficient? Share your thoughts below or tweet me @tamarahoumi