When Going Negative Goes Wrong
How deceptive advertising landed Anheuser-Busch in court
Anheuser-Busch launched an ad campaign during the 2019 Super Bowl with a primary message: Bud Light does not contain corn syrup. The ads featured the Bud Light King and the Bud Knight on a quest to return a barrel of corn syrup to its proper owner.
Corn syrup is commonly used in the brewing process as a part of fermentation, but Bud Light is brewed with rice. (Side note: other Anheuser-Busch beverages such as Stella Artois and Busch Light are made with corn syrup). The ads imply that other beers, specifically Coors Light and Miller Light, actually contain corn syrup in the final product.
MillerCoors filed suit over the ‘misleading advertising’. MillerCoors claimed the ads are misleading on two occasions: the first is that Miller and Coors contain corn syrup, and the second implication is that people don’t know the difference between corn syrup and high fructose corn syrup. They were also pretty tweaked that Bud Light used the Miller and Coors logo in their ads.
A federal judge issued a preliminary injunction against Anheuser-Busch that prevents the beer giant from claiming its products have “no corn syrup”.
It’s a pretty big win for MillerCoors and poses some interesting questions with regards to “negative advertising”. When building a brand, it’s risky for a company to position
A few years ago, there were a number of milk companies that took this same approach by declaring their product was without hormones. That advertising was also deceptive since all milk contains bovine growth hormone, which is a naturally occurring hormone in cows that helps them produce milk and does not have any impact on human health since it is species-specific. Yet, those products saw an increase in market share and sales almost immediately.
How does it work in your industry? Is there any misleading advertising? Are there ways you could position a positive with your product/service that would indicate a negative for your competition?
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