Bud Light is in a fight for survival. The once-No. 1 beer is now an afterthought after its disastrous PR moves and conservative backlash. Turns out, people don’t want the aftertaste of leftist propaganda with their brew. And now the beer company might finally be listening.
Back in April, Bud Light teamed up with transgender influencer Dylan Mulvaney to promote the beer. The company sent some special cans with Mulvaney’s face on them celebrating “365 Days of Girlhood.”
The result created a transition for the beer as well because drinkers went elsewhere. Bud Light long held a conservative spot in the beer-verse. The Mulvaney deal caused enormous negative reaction ranging from picking a tastier beer to singer Kid Rock using Bud Light cans for target practice.
Now the suds maker is betting that tough men and women will help sell the beer that a biological male undermined. The company finally realized it was in deep hops. So it took action. In the past few weeks:
Bud Light launched “an initiative to help Folds of Honor deliver $3M in educational scholarships to the families of first responders.”
The company tried to placate its distributors by offering $150 million to them to keep from being kicked off of shelves.
And, while it might just be for business reasons, Captiv8, the marketing company involved in the Mulvaney fiasco, just let go of a bunch of execs.
Then there’s the savvy UFC deal. UFC CEO Dana White said in a press release. “There are many reasons why I chose to go with Anheuser-Busch and Bud Light, most importantly because I feel we are very aligned when it comes to our core values and what the UFC brand stands for.”
What White means is that they gave the UFC tons of money. That’s the shared value. Nothing else. I’m pro-capitalism, so I don’t blame him one bit. He’s making a decision for the fiscal health of the whole UFC. How many Americans would refuse to drink weak beer for $100 million?
There are two possibilities now: either Bud Light is really trying to turn over a new leaf and win back its old customers, or it’s trying to pretend and make it all go away.
Bud Light is making some good moves here. Helping the families of first responders will always get appreciated in my house. We’ve had five generations of firefighters. And signing up again with the UFC is smart business even if it’s just a front. It’s a proud league and White represents it well.
But the thing about forgiveness is you have to admit you did wrong first. And you have to promise not to do it again. That means Bud Light execs have to be honest with their customers about the Mulvaney fiasco and say that MMA fighters and first responders represent the beer’s values, and that the Mulvaney stunt did not.
Now, it’s possible that Bud Light is throwing in the towel and going to stick with the largely conservative, beer-buying public. That’s one of the options I predicted early this year. But I doubt it. Not yet, anyway.
This isn’t the first time Bud Light has tried to move on from the disaster it caused. This is the same leadership whose former marketing boss mocked the brand as “fratty.” It tried minimizing the relationship with Mulvaney as Anheuser-Busch CEO Brendan Whitworth told CBS on June 28, “Just to be clear, it was a gift, and it was one can.”
Then there was the summer commercial where Bud Light made fun of its customers to the ’70s tune of “Good Times” by Chic. The spot showed a large group of Bud Light drinkers picnicking and doing all sorts of stupid things – one man getting sunburn with a phone sitting on his stomach leaving a mark; another walking through a screen door; a pair unable to close a refrigerator and still another man falling out of a hammock.
The slogan, “Easy to drink” follows and is apparently necessary since the company thinks its customers are too moronic to open a beer can.
Turns out, the customers are smarter than the marketers, and they didn’t like that either. So, is Bud Light merely spending more money to buy off its customers? Probably. But no amount of UFC kicking butt will solve the core problem – Mulvaney, who has turned from a supporter of the brand into a critic.
“For a company to hire a trans person and then not publicly stand by them is worse in my opinion than not hiring a trans person at all,” Mulvaney said.
So now Bud Light runs the risk of having both woke drinkers and super woke media angry. And that problem won’t go away easily. “Supporting and hiring trans people should not be political, and the people making it out to be — they’re bigots. And we should not let them win,” Mulvaney said.
It’s impossible to placate conservatives and Mulvaney who thinks doing so is bigoted. Not with the same brand. What the company could do is make Bud Light the conservative brand it used to be and create a new, woker beer and get Mulvaney involved with that. But I think it’s probably too late for that, as well. Both sides would notice and react.
In other words, Bud Light has to offend somebody. The latest spending doesn’t mean the company has chosen sides, but they will likely be forced to do so or waste that money and the good will they are trying to restore.