The Cultural Ignorance of the Mike’s Hard Lemonade “Be Mariachi’d” Campaign

May 4, 2012
5:06 PM

Why do major American brands, in their unending quest to tap into the "Latino craze," miss the mark more often than not with their campaigns? One friend of our boss said it best when they were discussing the Mike's Hard Lemonade "Be Mariachi'd Cuatro de Mayo" campaign: this is all about being "willingly ignorant."  

Screen Grab from Mike's Hard Lemonade Ustream Channel

Mike's, a product we actually buy and drink on those summer nights when we don't want beer, is a quirky brand, but today, they took their quirkiness just a bit too far with their 5-hour live stream of an 'improv mariachi" band. The result? No más Mike's Hard Lemonade for the Rebeldes.

The idea, from the sound of it, was clever: people submit their ideas for songs and the quirky "improv mariachi" band would sign them. Yet, there is an idea and then there is execution of the idea. For one thing, five hours of improv is tough. On anyone. More importantly, there is something wrong when agencies will cross the cultural insensitivity line to get marketing attention. Ok, we get it. It is Cinco de Mayo, the new American St. Patrick's Day. Even though Cinco de Mayo isn't even celebrated in Mexico, it is now the "Latino" holiday in the US. So, let's roll out the sombreros, sarapes, mariachis, and every other stereotypical image you can find. And to top it off, let's get quirky and witty about it. This is why Mike's campaign failed. It was trying REALLY HARD to be clever, and ended up pissing off some people. Predominantly Latino people. Or better yet, the fastest-growing consumer market in the United States. And now that consumers have blogs and social media, the damage has been done.

Meet the Fake Mariachi Guys

For those who see wittiness and edginess, we see mockery of cultures and traditions.

For those who see comedy in all this, we see comedy at the expense of others.

For those who tells us to relax and chill, we are pretty sure that if Mike's decided to put these improv guys in blackface (yes, people, what you might see as "innocent" mariachi costumes borders on the racially insensitive and the culturally ignorant to many), people would have cried foul. And even if the rest of the world thinks we are being "politically correct" or "authoritarian" in ours views and opinions, that is what blogs are for: to express those opinions and to have a real dialogue about it, which is something that Mike's own people should practice.

Here is what they did on their Facebook today. One Rebelde posted a comment on Mike's site:

A few minutes later, Rodrigo's comment was gone:

Brands and agencies talk a good game about two-way engagement, but when valid opinions from consumers are shared through Facebook, these brands are the first to delete those comments. Hell, we have been called every name in the book, but we won't delete comments on any of our social networks. Without true engagement, you will never reach a real level of trust. The message that Mike's is saying by deleting Rodrigo's comment? We really don't care about your opinion? That just won't cut it in the new media age.

But, since this is all about suggestions and offering solution, you now what Mike should have done? Get a real bilingual and bicultural mariachi band. Have real talent actually perform "mariachi" versions of real songs from fans. That would have been fun, more authentic, and it would have actually gone a long way in showing that Mike's was trying. And trying the right way. Hell, there is a whole mariachi genre dedicated to that (for example, Hotel California mariachi rocks!), That would have been edgy and cool.

Instead we got this. Pass the beer. We are done with the hard lemonade.