Tuesday, May 30, 2023

ANALYSIS: Bud Light positions itself as victim of ‘misinformation’ in damage control effort

Numerous headlines on the right are cheering the 24% drop in Bud Light sales as a victory for those tired of the recent promotion of transgender-everything in corporate media,

If your goal is to declare victory and move on to the next outrage, then fine. But if you think a worldwide corporate beheamoth such as Anheuser-Busch with over 65,000 employees and contractors and parent company InBev don’t have a trick or two up their sleeves to recover lost sales, then you’re as clueless as the marketing team that sent Dylan Mulvaney a promotional case of Bud to begin with.

For those interested in making a longer-term term impact on corporate America’s leftward tilt, watch carefully how A-B plays this game over the next few months. You’re now enrolled in a tuition-free class of Crisis PR 101. See if you can match them as they squirm and spend their way back to you buying a can at some point in the near future.

The first response was to say that the Mulvaney beer concept was a “calamitous mistake” but that it was an isolated incident. According to numerous reports of a call with independent distributors, is that the Mulvaney promo was “not a campaign” but a one-off box decoration. A planned transgender pride-themed can, it was claimed, never made it off the assembly line.

A-B then responded the hit to domestic sales amounted to about 1% of its global reach. The total market hit was estimated at $6 billion, however. Although Bud Light sales went down 24%, sales of other corporate-giant beers went up by about that much. Clearly consumers went elsewhere. No big sacrifice there, as Bud Light is bottom shelf stuff. Consumers were more than willing to make that sacrifice!

And now for the repositioning. A-B started out as an aggressor in the culture war by promoting transgenderism during a time in which numerous state legislators are attempting to ban the practice of genital mutilation and hormone blocking therapy among youth. But now, according to the Wall Street Journal, they’re turning the tables:

“The maker of Bud Light said it … is providing financial support to front-line teams and wholesalers who have taken the brunt of a backlash to a company promotion with a transgender influencer. Bud Light’s delivery drivers, sales representatives and independent distributors have been confronted by angry people on the streets, in bars and in stores. ‘They are our neighbors, family members and friends. They are in every community in America,'” a spokesman said. “Beer should bring people together. The beer itself should not be the focus of the debate.”

Did you read that right? Beer is the victim. And by association the hard-working men and women of A-B. How dare anyone refuse to crack open a Bud?

And then the final punch: A-B is banking on the fact that you’ll forget. Graduations are taking place, summer vacations are on the way, and Bud Light is ready to triple their summer marketing budget to make you feel better about the brand as things move on. And don’t count on there being an apology tour. Neither NASCAR nor NFL, nor “BLM baseball” have apologized. If the comment via the Wall Street Journal above is any clue, expect a “beer brings us together” campaign, complete with plenty of total market strategy involved.

Let’s review:

-Admit the mistake (while minimalizing it)
-Portray beer as the victim, not Mulvaney
-Hard-working A-B employees are hurting financially
-Hard-working A-B employees are being persecuted by ugly protesters who believed ‘misinformation’
-Drinking more Bud Light is how you help the country heal and come together

Brilliant, huh? Deflect from the fact that a transgender social-media propagandist spoke in an Instagram video about a personalized can of Bud Light that the brewer had sent him as a gift in order to reach social media users. On April Fool’s Day, at that, and following a general downtrend in alcohol consumption and “Dry January” like efforts. It was all planned to take advantage of extra eyeballs on advertising during collegiate basketball March Madness tournaments — an annual celebration of testosterone. A-B will minimize that lack of foresight as much as possible.

“We need to clarify the facts that this was one can, one influencer, one post and not a campaign,” global CEO Michael Doukeris said to investors Thursday.

But that one-time mistake was a doozy. Sales immediately plummeted, along with other A-B brands Budweiser, Busch, and Michelob. A-B responded by taking down Bud Light’s website almost immediately, according to observers.

Activists were quick on the trigger, calling for a boycott and pointing out comments made by Alissa Heinerscheid, the Anheuser-Busch executive who oversaw (past tense) Bud Light marketing and who then stupidly disparaged Bud Light drinkers as too “fratty” and out of touch. Heinerscheid was placed on leave April 21 and soon replaced, along with fellow marketing genius Daniel Blake. Neither were terminated. Blake was promoted to a vice president position as compensation for his troubles.

Let’s review again:

-Make a few heads roll (and quietly re-attach them!)
-Shut down communications while the heat is on
-Wait for things to cool down a bit

Masterful. But even just a fluid ounce of prevention could have averted the whole crisis.

Robert Lachky, a former A-B creative officer via STL Today, wisely noted “people don’t like getting preached to, especially when it comes to drinking beer.” He said after A-B was purchased by Belgium’s InBev in 2009, the marketing became out-of-touch with cheap beer drinkers. “None of these marketing folks has ever been to a NASCAR race, none has been to a football game or a rodeo. That’s insanity. That’s marketing incompetence,” he followed.

Accordingly, Bud Light has been a promoter of LGBTQ+ activities for about that long.

When all is said and done, will A-B’s marketing prowess and summer spending spree make up for memorable images of full shelves of Bud and Kid Rock blasting cases of Bud Light with a semi-automatic rifle?

Probably. And we hate to say that.

Baptists are still going to Disney World, Chick-fil-A is still doing business hand-over-fist, and are we still refusing to wear Nike these days? Americans are a forgiving bunch. But we doubt any transgender cans will be rolled out anytime soon.