WWTT? Budweiser Shares Spooky Mugshots in ‘Drink Wiser’ Campaign

In celebration of the spooky season, Budweiser put a Halloween spin on its “Drink Wiser” campaign, enlisting the help of those who know how much it sucks to be arrested for irresponsible drinking.

Halloween isn’t just for trick-or-treaters, however it seems that many of the “treats” for adult revelers often involve bars, parties, and alcohol, and thus many of the tricks can be less than amusing … especially when drinking and driving are combined. So in celebration of the spooky season, Budweiser put a Halloween spin on its “Drink Wiser” campaign, enlisting the help of those who know how much it sucks to be arrested for irresponsible drinking.

The Drink Wiser campaign kicked off originally in 2018, taking on the topic of binge-drinking and alcohol-impaired driving. In the original effort, Budweiser promoted the importance of hydrating in-between beers, as well as planning ahead regarding safe transportation options home.

For Halloween, Budweiser continued to promote the same efforts, but with a season-appropriate twist for its social media and digital out-of-home (OOH) visuals: The macrobrewer worked with actual individuals who were arrested for irresponsible drinking during Halloween seasons of the past.

Budweiser 'Drink Wiser' Campaign
Credit: Budweiser

While these aren’t the actual mug shots of Sharyn W., Cesar O., or Ameneh K., Budweiser opted to re-imagine these three individuals in Halloween costumes that had clearly seen better days. With the tagline of “Don’t Let Halloween Haunt You Forever,” the campaign’s digital OOH ads will be present in Chicago, New York City, and Philadelphia.

For the social component of the campaign, Budweiser has advised fans to follow it on Twitter, @BudweiserUSA, as well as turn on tweet notifications to receive reminders to drink responsibly and hydrate with water between beers.

According to an Anheuser-Busch (parent company of Budweiser) press release, Budweiser has been involved in cause marketing for over a century. “Budweiser Means Moderation” was the brewer’s first responsible drinking message — dating back to over a 100 years ago — and its first responsible drinking campaign “Know When to Say When” debuted over 35 years ago.

Halloween can be quite the party holiday for many, and it’s smart of Budweiser to come out ahead of it, reminding people to consume its products responsibly. The Halloween costume-themed mug shots are a great visual to use, and hopefully have people thinking twice about drinking and driving.

We see a lot of campaigns that — rightly so — show just how horrible drinking and driving can be for all involved. But I appreciate that Budweiser mixed humor and shame together to get the point across about irresponsible drinking this Halloween.

How Passion Projects and Cause Marketing Can Power Your Marketing

Cause marketing can tie passion and product together and help you connect with your target audience on an emotional level.

It’s not news that your marketing can’t be all about you. To borrow a pop culture expression, your prospects just aren’t that into you. They’re into what you can do for them.

But once they’ve established that what you can do for them will address the problem they’re trying to solve, your prospects will want to know what kind of company you are and what it’s like to work with you.

Tie Passion and Product Together

A great way to do this is to get behind a cause that ties into your business mission. One of my favorite examples of this is Honda’s support for Project Drive-In, which is an effort to save the remaining drive-in movie theaters in the country.

It’s a fun project, it’s as close to controversy-free as can be imagined, and its automative focus ties in with Honda’s business.

“Sure,” you might be saying. “Easy for Honda. Cars and drive-ins are fun and interesting. Who wouldn’t love that?” That’s a fairly common refrain from those of us in less exciting businesses, particularly in the B2B world. There is, after all, no “Project Fax Machine” to save the last beeping, whirring, thermal-paper spitting wonders of the 1980s.

So anyone marketing copiers may have a little more work to do, but consider the approach of Skody Scot & Company. It’s an accounting firm. Not too sexy, right?

‘Boring’ Industry Doesn’t Have to Mean Boring Marketing

Boring or not, Scody Scot is so passionate about its mission to help non-profits manage their financial reporting — it works exclusively with non-profits — that it provides its services free to any non-profit with annual revenues below $50,000.

Some of those firms are non-profits that are just getting started. Some will grow and eventually become clients. Others are simply small operations that will never grow — and they’ll never provide revenue.

What they do provide, though, is arguably more important: a concrete demonstration of Skody Scot & Company’s commitment to its mission of helping non-profit organizations.

Adding Cause Marketing to Your Marketing Mix

The trick for marketers is to find a cause that you and your team are passionate about, identify how it aligns with your message, and how you can support that cause. It may be a very personal approach, like that taken by Skody Scot, or a much more public effort, like Honda’s.

These kind of passion projects provide the perfect counterpoint to parts of your marketing that attract your target audience with a focus on how you can help them. By also demonstrating how deeply you believe in your work, you can deepen the emotional connection between you and your audience.

And if you really, really, really can’t find a cause to align your business with, it’s not because you’re in a “boring” industry. Chances are, you have a brand and positioning issue to solve before you can tackle you marketing questions.

Stonewall | LGBTQ+ Pride Turns 50 — And the World Comes Together

When I was judging the ANA International ECHO Awards last year, many of my judging colleagues saw this data-inspired Destination Pride campaign from PFLAG Canada.

When I came to New York in the 1980s, working as a media relations manager at the Direct Marketing Association, the city was a very different place than it is today.

New York was crawling out of bankruptcy, awash with graffiti, litter and crime, and thousands of people dying from a virus which our president barely would mention. ACT UP  AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power, Gay Men’s Health Crisis, American Foundation for AIDS Research, God’s Love We Deliver, Housing Works  this was the new “industry” that rose up in New York (and elsewhere) to find a way to halt a crisis that was robbing the world of bright, young minds  people from all walks of life.

Straight or gay, we were all running and hiding from a virus … in advertising, in media, in fashion, in the arts, in finance, and so on. It didn’t matter who you were  it could find you, and you’d probably die. My own Stonewall was not a riot in Greenwich Village in 1969, it was joining the fight against AIDS 20 years later, and a fight for those who were afflicted, marginalized, and isolated as pariahs.

Welcome to New York From Thousands of People I Never Got to Know

One of my first experiences upon moving to New York was giving food to and hugging a homeless man outside McDonald’s on Third Avenue. He was covered with lesions of Kaposi’s sarcoma, a manifestation of AIDS. He said, through crying eyes, that I was the first person to have touched him in two years. He was so frail, but his hug was so strong. I know he probably did not live long thereafter. I cry for him, even today, as I recall this happening. I wonder, too, about all the thousands like him, whose contributions we’ve been denied ever to know.

This fight against AIDS must continue today  a cure must be achieved. Thankfully, drug treatments have emerged to help those who have HIV infection, to become undetectable, or to prevent infection altogether, but these therapies are expensive and research toward better treatments, and a cure, must be funded. For those who become HIV+, it may no longer be a death sentence, but I’m certain it’s still no picnic. There are too many population segments living outside affordable, accessible, quality health care.

Pride and the Pursuit of Happiness

Through all this, I came to New York City because it represented a place where all of the world’s individuals could be who they are  no matter who you are and the city fosters such individualism, collectively. Stonewall, having claim to the birth of our modern gay rights’ movement, was part of this allure. Growing up in small-town America, I loved small-town values, but I could barely find myself thriving in the restrictions, expectations, and judgments that served, in my mind, to repress my own freedom-loving path and pursuit of happiness. New York would be my catalyst. In fact, New York even as a global city is, to me, a quintessentially American city where life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness can be very hard, but well worth the reward.

In 1994 on the 25th Anniversary of Stonewall I marched down Fifth Avenue, with people from all over the world who gathered to show our pride.

Twenty-five years on, we are prouder still. In 2019, I’m going to march again in New York  this time on the 50th Anniversary of the Stonewall Riots. I march for me, liberated, yes and for all of those who live still in repression, who are denied equal access under the law, and who are hated, harmed, or ignored, simply because of whom they choose to love. World Pride is a celebration of boundless, limitless love but also a love with responsibility toward ourselves and each other. Love respects. Love is compassionate.

Plan Your Travel Accordingly: Love and Education in a Campaign

When I was judging the ANA International ECHO Awards last year an extremely rewarding experience that I’m hopeful you choose to make happen for yourself this year many of my judging colleagues saw this data-inspired Destination Pride campaign from PFLAG Canada (agency FCB/Six, Toronto):

The Association of National Advertisers just posted this updated commentary about the campaign on its own site and YouTube Channel.

This campaign earned a GOLD ECHO, among many other advertising honors. The campaign shows how technology, data and creativity came together to truly help make the world more safe, tolerant and enjoyable for everyone, providing global destinations with a LGBTQ+ friendliness score. (New York City scores a 72 with room for improvement. How is your city doing?)

I’m hopeful to see more such innovative, provocative, and engaging ECHO entries this year. Great work toward positive business and social outcomes matter.

Stonewall50 | World Pride, march on!

WWTT? Burger King’s ‘Real Meal’ Campaign Falls Flat

This week, the home of the Whopper debuted a new line of “Real Meals” with the tagline that “No One Is Happy All the Time.” Which, of course, got the attention of media outlets, with many claiming the campaign is an attempt to troll McDonald’s and its Happy Meals. But there’s a bit more to this campaign.

This week, the home of the Whopper debuted a new line of Real Meals with the tagline that “No One Is Happy All the Time.” Which, of course, got the attention of media outlets, with many claiming the Real Meal campaign is an attempt to troll McDonald’s and Happy Meals. But there’s a bit more to this campaign, and in my opinion, not all of it falls neatly into place, so let’s take a look, shall we?

May is Mental Health Awareness month, and according to a press release from Burger King, the fast food chain has partnered with Mental Health America (MHA) as it debuts the “Real Meals.” President and CEO Paul Gionfriddo of MHA is quoted on that org’s site:

“MHA is very pleased to partner with Burger King. While not everyone would think about pairing fast food and mental health, MHA believes in elevating the conversation in all communities in order to address mental illness Before Stage 4. By using its internationally known reputation to discuss the importance of mental health, Burger King is bringing much-needed awareness to this important and critical discussion — and letting its customers know that is OK to not be OK.”

Yes, it is OK to not be OK … but is Burger King really using its reputation to start and sustain a conversation about mental health? First, this partnership does not mention anything about BK making donations toward mental health advocacy groups or nonprofits. Or, really, doing anything beyond the specialty packaging, video, and social posting. Exposure of an issue is great and all, but funds to help programs to directly support those who deal with the effects of mental health issues day in and day out have a bigger effect, I’d say.

WWTT? Burger King's 'Real Meal' Campaign Falls Flat
Credit: Burger King

Or, as Eater so aptly put it: “Feed your sadness or anger with a Whopper, won’t you? Lexapro can wait.”

The Real Meal options are essentially all the same: a Whopper, fries, and a drink, but they come in one of five boxes, each with a different mood or feeling: Pissed, Yaaas, DGAF, Salty and Blue. Or, translated a little bit closer to terms used when discussing mental health and feelings: angry, elated/happy, indifferent (and/or really angry?), angry/agitated/annoyed, and sad/depressed. However, the Real Meals will only be available in five specific restaurants in five cities (that’s what all the fine print is in the image above).

Again, how does this actually raise awareness about mental health?

According to AdAge, the campaign was created by MullenLowe U.S., and includes the following music video-style short film to support the campaign, which will be aired across social media nationally. The video seems to be the bigger part of the campaign with ties to elevating the issues surrounding mental health, and overall the message is decent … until it turns into a commercial to sell you a burger (that is, if you live near one of the five places where you can buy one).


So we have a campaign running nationally for an existing product that comes specially packaged in a container marked with a “feeling,” but available at only five specific locations across the country … SMH.

The Takeout hits the nail on the head pretty well I think:

“… isn’t this just commercializing emotional vulnerability? Brands Are Not Your Friends™, so how good should I feel about BK telling me it’s okay to be furious or depressed or whatever else? Aren’t they just using my mess to sell fries?”

As for the Real Meals taking on or trolling Happy Meals … they really aren’t. One is directed at children — or at least parents — and the other is, in my opinion, a virtue-signalling attempt to sell a Whopper and targeted at adults, and probably teens — but not children.

If Burger King really wanted to make strides toward elevating the issue of mental health, they would do more than put a combo meal in a box with a cute phrase printed on it. Packaging isn’t going to help anyone in regard to supporting and treating mental illness. Nor do I think it’s a fastfood chain’s job to do so! Burger King’s job is to sell burgers … but if they’re going to act as if they’re using their platform to elevate an issue, then mental health awareness needs to be truly elevated and supported. Not turned into a marketing campaign to sell a few more burgers.

And here’s how some people on Twitter feel about the #FeelYourWay hashtag and Real Meals:

Marketers, what do you think? Is Burger King stepping up and bringing mental health issues to the forefront of the minds of its customers … or making a buck off selling Whoppers to, well, anyone in general (just with some cute packaging in this case). Let me know in the comments below!

Why Do Marketers Ignore Quiet Desperation?

Thoreau famously wrote in 1849: “The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation.” And, it rings true today. You wouldn’t necessarily realize it because most people deal with desperation quietly. With so many services and products that can help people, it’s remarkable that this deep, internal cry for help — for something, anything — is often neglected by marketers and non-profits.

Quiet Desperation: Stressed, anxious person biting finger nails.Thoreau famously wrote in 1849: “The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation.” And, it rings true today. You wouldn’t necessarily realize it because most people deal with desperation quietly. With so many services and products that can help people, it’s remarkable that  this deep, internal cry for help — for something, anything — is often neglected by marketers and non-profits. So today, we dig into the “why” behind this topic.

My regular readers know that I both handle the marketing and perform in an International Champion Men’s Chorus. Winning more Gold Medals than any other group in this particular competition going back to the 1970s, the legacy of this organization is larger than life.

As organizations evolve, this organization has moved from a “compete and win at all costs” attitude to “share the music to touch the heart and soul.” Our musical director sums it up well when he says “music, at its core, is not competitive, but a gift to be shared with gratitude.”

So when we placed second — the Silver Medal — on July 7 in Las Vegas, in front of about 7,000 people in the audience and countless more viewing the live stream worldwide, it was a gut punch to many. Separating us from the Gold Medal winner was just 8 points out of 3,000 possible, a virtual tie.

Embracing both victory and defeat with equal humility and grace reveals much about the character of people and an organization. A line from a Kipling poem is inscribed above the entrance to Wimbledon Centre Court: “If you can meet with triumph and disaster, and treat those two imposters just the same; …”

But there is another, more important, part of this outcome that is a reminder to every marketer who is selling a product or service, or raising money for a non-profit.

It’s the stories from people who were deeply touched by the performance, yet didn’t care about the color of the medal. Here are a couple standouts:

I live in chronic pain due to an autoimmune illness. I live in emotional pain because my son is mentally ill with addiction issues. At this time I really don’t know where he is. He is 26 and as a mom if you had told me 10 years ago I would be in this position, I wouldn’t have believed you. I never know whether the calls will be suicidal or not. I’ve sort of suffered in silence because who really wants to know all this? Thank you for the music that takes me away to another place where I can be at peace.

What grabbed me about this writer’s note were the words “I’ve suffered in silence because who really wants to know all this?” She’s right, most don’t want to know the full story. The result: people live daily in quiet desperation.

Or this story:

June 2017 was the worst time I have ever experienced in my life. I thought I had lost everything. My business is gone. I also lost my mentor of 17 years. My life is now on a new path. When a man is in a dark place, sometimes dark thoughts enter his mind. Who knows what dangerous path I would have walked down. Watching how the audience immediately leaped to their feet for the applause, it healed me. I have never been so happy and excited.

At a time when marketers are often obsessed with generating leads, sales, donations and profits, sometimes we have to step back and ask ourselves, “What is our real mission and responsibility to our customers and donors? Are we offering hope during a journey of quiet desperation?”

Revenues are the typical yardstick of measuring a new attitude and strategy, and in this instance, the chorus that I perform with is in a stronger financial position than ever before, and is still considered by most in its community as the greatest chorus in the world.

So when authenticity is rare, but highly craved and valued, an organization’s great opportunity is to identify how to best serve its audience.

This may sound trite, but my experience today says that when you identify how to put your audience first so they can work through — or at least be able to take a break away from their personal quiet desperation — the leads, sales, donations, and profits will follow.

A Bee’s Seeds, Easy as 1-2-3 for Cheerios

As you’ve probably heard, in recent years there has been an alarming decrease in bee populations worldwide. Last week, General Mills and Veseys launched a marketing campaign to #BringBacktheBees, and I’m a huge fan.

The seed packs mailed out in Cheerios's ongoing "Bring Back the Bees" campaign.
The seed packs Cheerios is using to “Bring Back the Bees.”

March is halfway through, but it’s been a long cold month so far, at least here on the East coast. (I had to rock n’ roll my car out of ice twice yesterday, the second time my dentist had to step in to help!) But, this week I saw a campaign from an internationally renowned brand that put a smile on my face, so I thought I’d throw a little light on it here to warm things up.

As you’ve probably heard, in recent years there has been an alarming decrease in bee populations worldwide. This isn’t great news for pretty much anyone, since we all rely on the crops which rely on the pollination bees provide. In a particularly topical plot twist on Doctor Who, we learned the bees were disappearing simply to find their home on another planet; assuming this isn’t the case in reality, we’re left wondering what we can do about it.

That’s where General Mills, in partnership with Vesey’s, stepped in last week, with Honey Nut Cheerios front and center of their #BringBackTheBees campaign. Making clever use of the cereal’s well-known honeybee mascot, Buzz, the brand released a line of boxes with a blank white space where Buzz should bee be.

“Where’s Buzz the Bee?” is the question posed on their https://bringbackthebees.ca/. “Buzz is missing because there’s something serious going on with the world’s bees.” On the website, you’ll find kid-friendly and beautifully designed infographs, videos, and fun facts breaking down exactly why it’s so important to help the bee population. You’ll also find the explanation of a central pillar of the effort: GM will be giving away over 100 million packets of wildflower seeds with purchases of Honey Nut Cheerios boxes. The aim is for everyone to successfully plant the seeds and create a more bee-friendly environment.

It’s a fantastic plan of action, really, appealing to even the youngest Cheerios fans. It’s often kids at the helm of Honey Nut Cheerio consumption, and kids who want to grab that free prize that comes with the cereal box. That child reads the cereal box at breakfast, grabs their seed packet, and no doubt will be excited to run outside as soon as it’s nice enough and help mom or dad plant them. And they’ve learned something about environmental conservation in the process! Maybe even taught their parents.

To add a little social twist and work the viral marketing angle as all the best marketing campaigns do, you’re also encouraged to take pictures of your seed-planting efforts and eventual results and post them to your social media channels with the hashtag #BringBackTheBees. There’s another little twist of genius here; while many social campaigns have a fairly short shelf-life, it can take quite some time to cultivate successful wildflower growth, so the use of this hashtag could conceivably stretch out for months or years.

And of course, at the heart of it all? The brand is spreading environmental awareness and education, and trying to take concrete action. You love to see that done so creatively! Now, I have come across some less positive takes on Buzz’s approach, as the blend of wildflowers included in the giveaways may not be the best options for every environment. But while huge, seemingly philanthropic marketing campaigns sometimes have less-than-altruistic intentions, even those criticizing the approach overall agree that this is a great effort and General Mills is already doing what it can for the environment.

Whether the wildflower seeds result in billions of bee-topias or just result in a few aesthetically pleasing patches or get accidentally thrown away with the cereal box, the value of the educational resources on https://bringbackthebees.ca/ and http://www.cheerios.com/weneedthebees cannot be understated, not to mention the … wait for it … buzz that a campaign like this generates around its topic. Hopefully we’ll see a lot more of this sort of thing in 2017.

Hats and stingers off to you, General Mills. Cheerio!

A Hard Call for a Softer Side to Advertising

Social sustainability can be a key differentiator and motivator in our sharing economy. In consumer markets, TOMS built its message upon redefining “Buy One-Get One” as “Buy One-Give One” – and 35 million children around the world (and counting) – and by giving its customers a mission.

Build an emotional connection to your brand.

Change the world, one pair of shoes at a time.

Every individual has an opportunity through education.

We are not data, we are human beings.

One primary take-away from &Then 2015, a DMA event, last week in Boston is that effective advertising today is most certainly about strategy, creativity and results – all over this year’s International ECHO Awards. But let’s add another key ingredient: Social sustainability can be a key differentiator and motivator in our sharing economy.

I’m not talking about some modicum of a social responsibility tie-in … “Buy our product and we’ll plant a tree.”

But rather that, in an economy filled with attention deficit, good advertising, effective advertising, must make us pause and consider. The table stakes for engagement happen when we trust and connect to emotions in ourselves.

In consumer markets, TOMS built its message upon redefining “Buy One-Get One” as “Buy One-Give One” – and 35 million children around the world (and counting) – and by giving its customers a mission. While TOMS has moved its social responsibility mission beyond shoes to eyewear, water and other projects, I choose TOMS precisely because of its giving back along with its very comfortable shoes.

Singer John Legend has his handlers, most certainly, but when you heard his call to action for education reform, justice reform and minority business leadership – therein lays substance and authenticity behind his own storytelling in music. He may not sing about those subjects, but his celebrity is leveraged strictly for those causes that motivate him to act, that have defined his life, in how he was raised and how he sees the world as it is and what it can be through positive change.

Even look at this year’s winning crop of ECHOs. Many campaigns used emotion to tell compelling stories — with breath-taking results. Skoda’s Guardians of Winter, Uniforms for the Dedicated’s Rag Bag, Huggies and Volkswagen’s Eyes on the Road are just a few examples of campaigns that took individuals on an emotional journey of one sort or another – and made you think twice. You literally spend a moment walking life in someone else’s shoes, and realize it could be your own.

Suffice to say, these motivators are hardly new to advertising, it’s just great to see them in employed in data-driven campaigns and breaking through cacophony. What is new is that, as brands seek to connect with target audiences, truly making the world a better place to be is more meaningful today than ever.