Newsletter signup:

The business of social media marketing, storytelling and gamification

Social Business

Integrating social business thinking and technologies throughout the enterprise.

Social Analytics

The business of social media listening, understanding and reputation


Social media meets social responsibility.

Social Commerce

Where social media relationships translate into transactions

Home » Engagement, News, social media advertising, social media marketing, social media screw-up

Another one for the ‘Plain dumb marketing’ files: Belvedere Vodka’s apology leaves a bad taste

Submitted by on March 26, 2012 – 10:43 am3 Comments

If you were to sum up the philosophy of spirits marketers in two words, surely, it would be: sex sells. Could social media change all that? If the Belvedere Vodka PR mess that erupted on Twitter and Facebook over the weekend is any indication, then the creative guys better figure out some new bright ideas to sell booze and spirits.

What happened? On Friday, as Ad Age reported, Belvedere Vodka posted to its Twitter feed a new bit of creative that, understandably, created quite a stir, showing a frightened woman struggling to free herself from the arms of a grinning man. The post of course has since been deleted, but the image lives on, multiplying on Twitter as it always does whenever there’s a controversy. Here it is, thanks to the hundreds of you who’ve Tweeted it:

And so another tone-deaf attempt at edgy advertising triggers (rightfully) a fierce response from the public growing tired of these sexist predatory ads. Belvedere and its agency, Arnell Group, spent the weekend making apologies – turns out, the first one was flubbed – and even a donation to RAINN, described as “America’s largest anti-sexual violence organization.” Meanwhile, critics are still piling on on Twitter and the latest apology is getting hammered on its Facebook page as well. Also, the Facebook Wall is filling up with some serious finger-wagging. If you were wondering if the public still finds such sexist ads as funny, well, here’s your answer:

It’s pretty clear, Belvedere is getting a one-day boost to its fan numbers with people joining the group simply to vent.

You’re probably wondering: where does this blunder sit in the annals of corporate social media screw-ups? Brands like Molson and Pepsi and Coca-Cola have been hammered in the past for using social media channels to spread sexist messaging. The difference in those cases is it was the fans doing all the talking, and embarrassing the brands. This one is somewhat unique in that it was a message proposed by the agency and approved by Belvedere’s marketing team. It definitely would have made our book in the “Plain Dumb Marketing” chapter. Maybe it’s time we thought of a second edition.

#FAIL: The 50 Greatest Social Media Screw-Ups is available as an ebook for Kindle readers on Amazon UK and Amazon. Nook is also available. Paperback and ePub (iPad) format now available on Lulu.



  • Gregory says:

    People are way to sensitive, if it was a woman grabbing a man from behind, would anybody be crying rape? Is it possible for a woman to have an expression of shock or surprise without anyone assume she’s being violated?

    Kudos to Belvedere for approving something different than the usual fluff.

  • Guest says:

    Belvedere sucks, never buying it again!

  • Nixon says:

    Gregory –

    I would like to know if you would feel the same way if the advert was race-oriented. Or sexuality-oriented.

    Do you know how man women are raped, on average? Are you familiar with the stats on violence against women? Or how often alcohol is involved?

    Did you care to take a look at the woman’s face? She looks terrified.

    Women don’t go around raping men from behind. It’s not a prevalent social issue.

    When you are a rape survivor and can ACTUALLY REALTE TO THE ISSUE AT HAND then give your opinion. Otherwise you can just keep your ignorant keys quiet.

    This has nothing to do with people being overly sensitive. The above image is triggering, stinks of rape, and is completely unacceptable. Men who find this sort of thing are the same men who keep quiet when their mates joke about “having sex with” a woman when she is passed-out or under the influence – they are selfish and care more about having a laugh then they do about the safety of women, who are being raped every day by the men they trust.

Leave a comment!

Add your comment below, or trackback from your own site. You can also subscribe to these comments via RSS.

Be nice. Keep it clean. Stay on topic. No spam.

You can use these tags:
<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>

This is a Gravatar-enabled weblog. To get your own globally-recognized-avatar, please register at Gravatar.