Anheuser-Busch has issued a letter to wholesalers addressing the controversy surrounding Bud Light’s collaboration with transgender TikTok personality Dylan Mulvaney.
The letter, which was circulated to retailers, bars and restaurants, states that the Bud Light can featuring Mulvaney’s face was not made for production or sale to the general public and was not a formal campaign or advertisement.
Our largest corporations are happy to profit from the cultural decay. pic.twitter.com/WS4OIMy4MT
— Mythinformed (@MythinformedMKE) April 2, 2023
The branding was done through an outside marketing agency without the approval of higher management. “Anheuser-Busch did not intend to create controversy or make a political statement,” states the cover letter accompanying the note to wholesalers.
The partnership between Bud Light and Mulvaney led to widespread videos of Americans destroying Bud Light cases and cans, leading to a market value loss of more than $6bn in the days following the promotional partnership.
In the aftermath of the marketing decision, Vice President of Marketing Alissa Heinerscheid took a leave of absence, and Todd Allen was named the new vice president of marketing for Bud Light.
— Beer Business Daily (@BeerBizDaily) April 21, 2023
The St. Louis based brewery was purchased in 2009 by Belgian-based InBev, which led to a dip in marketing as the foreign-born markets were not privy to American culture. Robert Lachky, the former chief creative officer at Anheuser-Busch, commented that it doesn’t look like the company, with their now all-American marketing, has any clue about their customer base.
The controversy surrounding Bud Light’s partnership with Mulvaney highlights the challenges of navigating social issues in marketing campaigns. While some argue that companies have a responsibility to take a stance on social issues, others argue that it can alienate customers and lead to boycotts. Bud Light’s partnership with Mulvaney illustrates the risks of associating a brand with a social issue or cause that is controversial or polarizing.
Marketing campaigns that are perceived as political can often lead to backlash and boycotts, as seen in the case of Bud Light. While Bud Light’s partnership with Mulvaney was intended to be a one-off collaboration, it sparked a nationwide conversation about the role of social issues in marketing.
As companies continue to navigate the increasingly polarized political and social climate, they must weigh the risks of taking a stance on social issues against the benefits of aligning with a cause or movement.
This one came back and bit them in the butt.