It has been a full month now since the flashpoint of a marketing disaster took place for the number-one-selling beer brand, Bud Light. It was April Fools Day (appropriately) when America’s brashest trans “celebrity” Dylan Mulvaney blasted a quixotic video in a bathtub while clothed, announcing Bud Light celebrated the cosplay claim of being a woman for a full year. Since then we have watched as an organic boycott erupted and the beer brand has been on the ropes since.
While many focused on the stock price as a glaring indicator, the real metric to watch has been the actual sales figures. We are starting to see the numbers bubbling up, and they are not good, in glaring fashion. Mike Miller (ironic) covered the latest, where beer industry analysts have pegged the drop in sales, and it is as ugly as a fashionista with a 5 o’clock shadow.
In the first week after this partnership was revealed the drop was significant, at -11%, and it has plunged more in successive weeks. Two weeks ago the drop was -21%, and then last week it fell even further, at a rate of just over -26%. This mean by now the brand is moving about half as many units as it had in March. The competitors are benefitting, as both Coors and Miller have seen sales increase at close to 13% each.
The brewer has tried a number of fixes to this problem. The VP of the brand who orchestrated this fiasco – Alissa Gordon Heinerscheid – is on a leave of absence, along with another executive. The company quickly produced a jingoistic commercial, and it has hired a team of GOP operatives in D.C. to lobby on behalf of the beer. The problem is, none of this is stemming the energy behind what is clearly an organic rebellion, unlike called-for boycotts such as when Donald Trump lashed out at the makers of Keurig coffee makers. (Does anyone even remember what that hostility was even about?)
But so far the efforts have been a case of all foam and no brew, and now Anheuser-Busch is caught in an untenable position as the brewer has managed to also anger the left side of the debate. While appeasement towards the fleeing foam-suckers has been attempted those on the side of support for trans issues see this as a slight. When the CEO issued a letter trying to make everyone happy some activists perceived this as a repudiation of Mulvaney, and the trans community.
Anheuser-Busch caves to the pressure of a massive campaign against the company after it used trans influencer Dylan Mulvaney as a spokesperson for Bud Light. Read between the lines of this statement and you can see a company running scared and kicking Mulvaney to the curb. pic.twitter.com/lMwqqgQjdy
— Benjamin Ryan (@benryanwriter) April 14, 2023
In the weeks since the attempt by the brewery to stem the bleeding activists and allies on the left are saying this is the company working with the hateful faction, in their eyes.
These appear to have only drawn accusations that the brand was pandering to transphobes after committing to supporting the LGBTQ+ movement, and the row has crystallized into a broader debate about the acceptance of transgender individuals in public life.
Adding to this quagmire was the LGBT𝜋 publication The Advocate which saw the moves and they too called for a boycott of Bud Light for currying favor to what they described as “trans hate”. So the very group that Anheuser-Busch was hoping to ally itself with is turning away, meaning all this effort has not only failed to provide dividends but has exploded into a nightmare. It becomes another example of the vocal activist crowds proving to not be a fertile component for companies.
We see a lesson that has played out repeatedly over the years with businesses looking to be positioned as socially relevant, only to have their appeasement lead to a marketing malaise. I recently covered how no one mentions the huge losses for the brand formerly known as Aunt Jemima. Target stores suffered store traffic drops after entering the gender bathroom debate. Gillette saw huge sales losses after calling its male customer base “toxic” in commercials. Disney is still reeling from a horrendous year after entering Florida’s political debates.
Meanwhile, the conservative consumer, constantly disparaged in the press and regarded as an outmoded demographic, is shown to have a real marketing influence. This repudiation of a beer brand has taken place without an organized effort; beer drinkers have made their decision, and so far the brewer has been incapable of changing minds back. Now the initial group it appealed to has also turned its back, and Anheuser-Busch is left holding the tab.
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