The Bud Lite boycott: Now the US left is joining in

The saga that has enveloped US Beer brand Bud Lite since it made the questionable decision to pay for an endorsement from trans influencer Dylan Mulvaney shows no sign of abating: Sales are down 25%, per the Daily Mail:

Sales of Bud Light beer are down by over a quarter, year on year, after the disastrous partnership with transgender influencer Dylan Mulvaney.

The beer brand presented Mulvaney with personalized cans showing her face, which she (sic) promoted on April 1.

Fans of the beer erupted in fury. A boycott was declared, Kid Rock used Bud Light cans as target practice, and $5 billion was wiped off the value of the brand. Two senior marketing executives have taken leave of absence amid the fiasco.

Bud Lite’s parent company, Anheuser Busch, has placed two senior executives behind the Mulvaney advertising campaign on leave, and has recently announced a new marketing campaign specifically designed to re-connect the brand with a form of American patriotism, presumably to undo the damage. The ad is about a beer “rooted in the heart of America”, and features a traditionally masculine voiceover:

The problem is that every action has an equal and opposite reaction: On the one hand, the company has pivoted to try to win back the thirst of the conservative side of America’s culture war. On the other hand, the liberal side of that same war has noticed that the company is running as fast as humanly possible to distance itself from a prominent trans influencer:

Rather than come to the defense of a transgender woman, rather than defend a noble campaign that sought to reflect acceptance, and rather than let the campaign with Mulvaney speak for itself, Anheuser-Busch poured alcohol all over an extremist’s fire, and that will continue to singe our community.

Maybe the worst thing the company did was leave Mulvaney all alone, twisting in the wind, abandoning any kind of defense of her. That is an utterly repugnant reflection of the brand.

Anheuser-Busch, weakly, did not stand up against hate. And while boycotts don’t work, they do make a statement. It’s not Kid Rock and Ted Nugent who should be boycotting Bud Light — it should be us.

Our friend Ed Morrissey at the US site HotAir, who has provided detailed coverage of this story, cheekily speculates that it’s possible that the US left sees the writing on the wall for Bud Lite, and wants a little bit of credit for its eventual death: it wasn’t the hated right that took down Bud for employing Mulvaney, they’ll say: it was us who took it down for abandoning her.

Either way, there are strong “new coke” vibes off the brand.

All of this was entirely unnecessary: Whatever about the quality of Bud Lite as a beer, it had a very strong brand. In this case, that brand has been wrecked by a conscious decision to involve the brand in a cultural controversy in which the company that makes the beer had no stake, and no reason to have a stake. For reasons that will hopefully be studied in marketing courses for generations to come, the company decided to gratuitously insult its own customers in order to portray itself as more progressive and enlightened than they are.

The irony is that in all of this, they’ve probably done more harm to Dylan Mulvaney’s burgeoning media career than they could have done if they had actively tried to harm it: Brands will not be lining up, it’s safe to say, to employ Mulvaney to endorse them moving forward. At least, so long as those brands don’t have a death wish.

The other irony is that Bud Lite has probably doomed itself further by so actively running scared from the boycott from the right: There was probably a scenario in which the company stuck to its guns and leaned in to the whole Mulvaney thing where their beer became the beer that fashionable progressives wanted to be seen to drink: There was an imaginable scenario where the likes of Barbra Streisand posted videos of herself cracking open (but not drinking, naturally) a bud lite on social media. Sales would still have been down, but partisan loyalty might have salvaged something.

Now, the company has the worst of both worlds: American conservatives won’t drink it because of the trans ad. American progressives won’t drink it because the company is pandering to the right to try to undo the damage.

As I say: A historic marketing disaster. And it won’t be the last one, because colleges across the west are producing a lot of young marketing executives who don’t know anything else, aside from trans flags and rainbows and virtue signalling.

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