What Heineken's Blunder Tells Us


I share my take on how and why brands like Heineken are using controversial ads on The Evan Solomon Show:


 Recently, Heineken came under fire for their racist "Lighter is Better" ad. 

This ad (embedded above) featured a bottle of Heineken beer sliding past several black people before stopping in front of a light-skinned woman. The tagline for the ad was "lighter is better." Everyone had something to say about the campaign. It all started with Chance the Rapper. Soon after, news outlets across the country were covering the "story." This line of commercials was swiftly pulled after Heineken faced backlash. 

Heineken addressed the concerns about the ad in this statement:

"For many years, Heineken has made ambitious ads that are reflective of different ethnicities, nationalities, and genders and show that there's more than unites us than divides us. We regret that the advert has created ambiguity. That was never our intention and we are taking the feedback to heart in developing future campaigns." 

That's the good news. However, there’s a bigger issue here.

This ad is just one example of the ways that companies are using social issues to create buzz around their brand. I can't say with certainty that this was Heineken's strategy from the jump. However, it seems that they were prepared to deal with the outcry they created. 

So, is this a good marketing tactic for brands? Using these sensitive issues and knowing that people will call them out for it? No. In fact, I would’ve loved to have been a fly on the wall in the meeting when this ad got approved. There are many ways that a company can get people talking about their commercials. Racist imagery and taglines shouldn't have been part of the conversation.