The Ethics of Heineken Lager Beer Marketing Strategy

“Sometimes, lighter is better “ the advertising slogan of a prestigious brewing company, Heineken Lager Beer has been criticized as a racist advertisement in 2018.

Heineken N. V. , a Dutch brewing company has been in the brewing industry for more than 140 years, not only well-known because of their alcoholic drinks but also success to impress the consumers with attractive commercials.


“Sometimes, lighter is better “commercial video shows a white bartender pass a bottle of Heineken to black woman, a black guitar player, another black woman at the end pass to a white girl then shows the caption of “lighter is better “ at the end of the advertisement.

The actual meaning of the word “lighter” this video is the alcoholic concentration more dilute and calories lesser but “lighter” can become more sensitive and easily lead some consumers link to the discussion of complexion and black or sensitive white issue due to the way they convey message of the advertisement. This advertisement will easily mislead customers that white is better than black and the black people is always wrong.

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AMA code

This advert does not obey responsibility,one of the AMA code of ethics, as the company failed to think rational and be responsible to the society during they promote their products. Feagin (2014) points out that today’s world a large number of white attempts to break the vicious cycle of racism from the past and some institutions in American also start to have courses such as Stereotyping 101 or Racism 101 to instill knowledge about history of racist.

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Therefore, the community more aware with the racial sensitive issue compare to the past. ’Lighter is better’ may misguide young children to link the word “ lighter” to the “ complexion lighter “. Wrong concept and moral value will be instilled since they are normally too naïve and lack of knowledge about light alcoholic drink.

Apart from responsibility, Heineken N. V. has also broken the principles of AMA code by showing disrespect action and unfair treatment to different races. Deciding the way to promote products before advertising is an utmost import mission for the marketing department. The word “Lighter” seems like the company only focus their market target on white and neglect the black. Besides lower the sales of products, the employees who are black will also feel themselves being offended thereby affect the productivity. Hence, fail to respect can be an obstacle for company development. *citation

Nevertheless, Heineken N. V. still be openness when facing those criticisms. Snider (2018) reports that Heineken N. V. had removed the advert from the media, apologizes for their mistake and explained that they supposed to mark clearly about the word “lighter”. They accepted judgement from consumers and took action with it.


Heineken N. V. has professional and reliable marketing structure team to discover variety ways to promote their alcoholic products. This comes in question : “why such famous company still making this kind of big mistake? “

It is hard to not thinking that they might use the chance of the racism topic to grab some others attentions thereby promoting their drinks since the hot or controversial topic always wins more media exposure.

In addition, using sensitive word to promote product is unethical because it may have negative impact on global peace. The concept of global village has been spread out rapidly but Dixon(2009) mentions that if we do not respect others culture,language, economics and basis mean of survival, it will loss the meaning of the definition of “global village “. Thus, “ lighter is better “ slogan, a 30-second commercial video seems only shows little negative effect on the community but the power of language may cause a huge global issue. 5. SuggestionLastly, Heineken N. V. should avoid using all of the sensitive word which relates to complexion. To promote light Heineken alcoholic drink, sunlight might be a suitable component to represent the word of “ light”. For example,a group of people enjoy drinking light Heineken after playing volleyball at the beach under the shines of the sun. This can lead consumers to link to think that “light” is more healthier and better. 6. Conclusion

In conclusion, Heineken N. V faced financial loss as they pull all the advertisements after outcry over racism. . Reputation of the company over the past has also affected. The strong bonding between customers and seller maybe be damaged as the emotional of customers will be affected since the company failed to comply the AMA code of ethics. Company should always keep their advertising ethical not only to uphold brand reputation but also protect the customer rights.

Updated: Feb 02, 2024
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The Ethics of Heineken Lager Beer Marketing Strategy. (2024, Feb 05). Retrieved from

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