American beer brand Bud Light has triggered social media outrage over its #UpForWhatever campaign.
To promote the beer on St Patrick’s Day, Bud Light posted on Twitter: “On #StPatricksDay you can pinch people who don’t wear green. You can also pinch people who aren’t #UpForWhatever.”
But the campaign backfired, with Twitter users complaining it was dangerous and encouraged sexual harassment and even rape.
Bud Light deleted the tweet within two hours and issued a statement apologising for the post.
“We understand some people misunderstood our St. Patrick’s Day post and apologize to anyone who was offended,” a spokesperson for the business said in a statement to Mashable.
“We would never condone disrespectful behavior and our intention was only to playfully celebrate the holiday.”
Melbourne University senior lecturer Dr Lauren Rosewarne, an expert on gender and discrimination issues, told SmartCompany Bud Light clearly intended #UpForWhatever to be a humorous campaign.
“We see a lot of examples of companies that use social media for campaigns in the hope that they go viral and have unintended consequences,” she says.
“I really don’t think they were hoping that sexual harassment would be the end game here, they wanted it to be pranks and novelty.”
Rosewarne says businesses like the idea of social media because it’s cheap.
“The problem is that it can very quickly get out of hand,” she says.
“We’ve seen this with Coca-Cola and Coles, a lot of businesses assume goodwill on the part of their followers and that’s a grave mistake.”
Rosewarne says businesses should “anticipate a worst case scenario and work backwards” when devising social media campaigns.
“Actually strategise a plan B,” she says.
SmartCompany contacted Bud Light for comment but did not receive a response prior to publication.