Hey Bud, This Frog's for You! An Allegory in Three parts (with advice for Bud Light at the end).
Updated: Sep 23
Once upon a time, in Frogland, the greatest frog nation on earth, there were frogs. Throughout time, and every year, the frogs in this great nation celebrated The Great Frog Transformation. This is the unfortunate story of the transformation of the great frog transformation, as told in three parts.
Part I: Celebration
All frogs transfrog at least once in their lives, and some transfrog twice. The first transfroging is universal. It is the time when tadpoles (the frog offspring) transition into frogs (adults) in a process called metamorphosis, which is one of the most striking transformations in all of biology. It is such a joyous occasion, with all sorts of contests (fly eating contests are my personal favorite), illegal gambling predicting when tadpoles will transform and to which gender, and of course, political arguments over precisely when tadpoles become frogs, an unanswerable question that scholars at frogiversities call a practical paradox. Despite the standard political silliness, during the transfroging, frogs all over the country croak, ribbit, hop, gulp, and generally engage in joyous celebration.
"Oh Fred Frog, look at our offspring."
"Look at him jump."
"Best jumper in the pond" said every proud frog parent all over the world.
This universal frog transition can include a more selective transition. Sometime tadpoles are born into the wrong bodies, so they transition into the right bodies. More specifically, depending on the pond and the environment, up to 10 percent of tadpoles transition into a different gender!
"Hey Fred Frog, how is the fly catching on this side of the pond?"
"I transitioned. You can call me Francis Frog."
"Okay. Hey Francis Frog. How is is the fly catching on this side of the pond?"
You see, it just did not occur to frogs to worry much about their neighbors' transfroging. Why would they? If a frog is in the wrong body, then fix it and move on.
Part 2: Fear and Loathing
Then slowly, something changed. Historically frogs have been an independent lot. "You look out for your business and I will look out for mine." Of course, there had always been a few paranoid frogs who were fearful of transfroging, but they did not have an audience and no way to spread their hate (In human land, there have always been transpeople and there has always been fear and hate, but let's stay focused on the frogs).
Then came the toadynet, and with it, fear and paranoia became monetized. You see, paranoia, fear, and performative hatred bring "clicks." Every click brings a frog closer to advertising pay dirt. Caring and compassionate content does not get "clicks" and cannot gain an audience. As a result, more and more content is carefully designed to trigger fear.
Take Marjorie Toady Greene, for example. Toady Greene is a froglitician who rose to fame through her propaganda designed to divide the frog nation through misinformation and Fear. Her statement that "there are two genders: Male & Female. Trust the Science!" is a particularly fascinating example of the type of content that creates clicks by triggering fear through misinformation. More specifically, Frog Scientists contend that frog sex traits are complicated and do not exist on the strict categorical male/female dimensions.
Frog DeSantis, along with other high level frogliticians jumped on the fear and loathing bandwagon by eliminating individual rights and responsibilities that have traditionally belonged to individual frogs. Frog DeSantis passed new laws making it impossible for safe transfroging. Frog parents were no longer trusted to help their offspring through the transitioning process. Even the great first transfrogging was treated with suspicion.
In this time of fear and loathing, online debates occurred over whether or not secondary transfroging was natural, was moral in FROD's holy text, whether transfrogs were mentally unstable, were sexual predators, and, whether transfrogs should be allowed to use the toilet with the other frogs.
Part III: The Great Undoing
Frogs hyped up on fear and hate would not hire transfrogs. Transfrogs were kicked out of ponds and forced into frogstitution, They were threatened with violence. Transfrogs were murdered, raped, sexually assaulted, and physically assaulted, making this population the top recipients of hate crimes in frog nation.
"Francis Frog, you must repent or burn in the belly of the Great Blue Heron forever, days unending."
"But I didn't do anything wrong."
"You are an abomination!"
"I just want to catch some flies like all these other frogs."
"You are not like these other frogs. You must leave this pond and never return."
Many Frogs and frog businesses tried to stop the madness by providing facts and information. They tried to explain that transfroging was natural and present across cultures and historical moments. But the fear was widespread and resistant to facts.
Bud Light stepped in to support a transfrog named Dylon who defied social stigmas by transfroging in public. They put Dylon's face on a can of Bud Light. Instead of restoring celebration, it created more fear and loathing. Dylon received a terrifying array of death threats.
Fanatic frogs started shooting their tongues at Bud Light cans. For the humans reading this story, a frog's tongue launches incredibly fast. A frog can shoot out its tongue, capture an insect, and pull it back into its mouth within .07 seconds — five times faster than the human eye can blink. In other words, it is shockingly similar to what happens when a human shoots a gun.
Insects caught by the tongue can experience 12 Gs or 12 times the force of gravity — typically astronauts experience 3 Gs during a rocket launch.
Shooting these cans was the fanatic frogs way of suggesting that Dylon and those like her should be murdered.
But Anfroger-Busch (The parent company of Bud Light in Frogland) (Not to be confused with Anheuser-Busch in human land), refused to back down. They confronted the irrationality, the fear, the paranoia with these three campaign come backs:
"If you are filled with hate and violence, Do Not Drink Our Beer. This Bud is NOT for You."
"As to the rest of you, calm down, kick your feet up, enjoy the company of your friends, and bring the Bud. There is a Bud for all the good people in the world."
"Wait. Let me see if I understand. We have global warming, political polarization, unfettered sexual violence, and this is the hill you want to die on? Really?"
So thank you Bud Light (in Frogland) for taking a stand and sticking with your principles. Your leadership has been appreciated. "This Frog's for You!"
Dear Bud Light,
I recognize that you were caught in a very bad situation. I was asked to offer you some advice. My name is Dr. Debbie Dougherty. My specialty is helping organizations solve problems through cultural development. My preference is to find the most challenging problems and then figure out how those problems are embedded in the organization's culture. Issues like predatory sexual behavior; diversity, inclusion, equity, and access; and gendered violence are examples of problems I help organizations solve. In addition, I have a side "hobby" of helping organizations through communication crises, such as the one this blog post addresses. I have worked with big organizations that cross the spectrum of types, and forms, so I do have experience and have seen success.
I have 4 pieces of advice:
Your communication during a communication crisis is never going to reach or appease everyone. Ever. So don't try to create a message that will sooth all the people. Instead, create messages that speak to the people who will and can listen.
Stick with your values and your brand. Bud Light is known for supporting marginalized people. This says something about who you are. When you did not hold your ground in your messaging, your consumers felt betrayed. Because they were betrayed. But you know that.
If you are going to support marginalized people in our current polarized society (and I think you should. It is an admirable quality of your brand.), then you need to be prepared to respond immediately and effectively when things go off the rail. Your people need to be trained in managing the unique qualities of communication crises.
Keep in mind that lawyers protect the organization, but your communication people protect the brand. I have noticed that too often the messages are fed through lawyers who do not understand the centrality of brand to an organization. Let the lawyers have input, but do not let them make the decisions. (I am sure you and I could share horror stories about this type of situation, perhaps over a nice cold bottle of Bud Light!).
You can contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org
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