Back in October, Senator Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) tweeted a video of Dylan Mulvaney talking about how people were noticing his “bulge” when he was out in public dressed as a woman, and wrote, “Dylan Mulvaney, Joe Biden, and radical left-wing lunatics want to make this absurdity normal.”
Little did Blackburn know that the international marketing director for AB InBev, the multinational drink and beverage company, would hire Mulvaney to market Bud Light. That brand was already No.1 in America, but Alissa Heinerscheid saw that sales were declining and needed a boost.
Just weeks before Mulvaney did an ad for Bud Light during March Madness, Heinerscheid said,
This brand is in decline. It has been in decline for a really long time. And if we do not attract young drinkers to come and drink this brand, there will be no future for Bud Light….
It’s like, we need to evolve and elevate this incredibly iconic brand….
What does evolve and elevate mean? It means inclusivity. It means shifting the tone. It means having a campaign that’s truly inclusive and feels lighter and brighter and different and appeals to women and to men.
“Shifting the tone” is what the Bud Light controversy is all about. Although sales are down around 25 percent in the United States, and the company’s stock is down about 15 percent since the Mulvaney ad hit back in March, AB InBev could care less.
It is a behemoth of a company, with 630 separate beer brands being sold in 150 countries and annual revenues of more than $50 billion. It can ride out the storm, and it will.
Those seeking an apology for the “failed” campaign that offended so many will be disappointed. The company’s U.S. CEO, Brendan Whitworth, had his chance to apologize, but didn’t. Instead, he offered this profundity: “We hear you. Our summer advertising launches next week, and you can look forward to Bud Light reinforcing what you’ve always loved about our brand — that it’s easy to drink and easy to enjoy.”
No apology. No explanation that his company sponsors a Pride celebration in Canada and has for years.
The new ad (seen here) is slick, and, with hot weather just around the corner, will likely put Bud Light back into the No.1 position it held before March Madness.
Other marketing plans include NFL stars Travis Kelce (Kansas City Chiefs), George Kittle (San Francisco 49ers), and Dak Prescott (Dallas Cowboys). The company also plans to include country singer Megan Moroney, country/pop singer Kane Brown, and country music group Midland. It’s planning a Bud Light Backyard Tour and will be giving away $10,000 in cash every week during the upcoming campaign.
Investment pundits have suggested that the selloff in the company’s stock is over, and buyers should add to their positions. Even those who recommended investors sell the company’s stock back in April are doing surveys that are leading them to suggest — as Mitch Collett wrote for Barron’s — that “these headwinds are likely to fade” over time.
Selecting Dylan Mulvaney was intentional. His video series “Days of Girlhood” has received more than one BILLION views. He has more than 10 million followers on TikTok. His “transition” thanks to “feminization” surgery is now accepted, and Bud Light sought to ride the wave while adding to its momentum.
This is no marketing disaster on the same plane as Coca-Cola’s flop with its “New Coke” back in the 1980s. Nor is it to be compared to what many consider the worst marketing disaster in history, Ford Motor Company’s Edsel in the late 1950s.
Back then, Coca-Cola and Ford were trying to find a market niche and exploit it. They were seeking to satisfy consumer tastes. Coca-Cola conducted over 200,000 taste tests before bringing the “New Coke” to market, and they still got it wrong.
Not so with AB InBev and Dylan Mulvaney. The company will survive the present unhappiness among its customers and likely post new highs soon. And the message will be delivered, just as Senator Blackburn presciently predicted back in November.