More and more brands are having to resort to scenario planning as their campaigns are so quick to stir controversy in the extreme black and white wilderness that is the internet.
Over the last two weeks, Bud Light has been part of an ongoing news cycle following the brand’s partnership with transgender influencer Dylan Mulvaney. On April 1st, Mulvaney posted a video touting Bud Light’s March Madness contest as well as a commemorative can the brand had made for her.
Since then, the brand’s partnership with Mulvaney has continued to make headlines as it has some fans of the brand calling for a boycott for working with a trans creator. At the same time, comments made by a marketing exec for the brand on the need for it to be less “fratty” and more inclusive have also drawn criticism.
“Unfortunately we’ve come to expect this in today’s climate and on the contrary, we need more brands to take a similar clear stance in support of trans influencers,” said Mae Karwowski, CEO of influencer marketing shop Obviously. Bud Light’s work with Mulvaney comes as brands are pushing to be more inclusive with influencer marketing campaigns.
The rise in controversy is further stimulated as Gen Z and millenials pay more attention to the moral standpoint of brands. “Gen Z and millennials specifically put their dollars toward people and brands that align with their value set,” said Vickie Segar, founder of influencer marketing shop Village Marketing. “And value set doesn’t mean political affiliation, that is a component. Value set alignment — anything from environmental impact, do you have women of colour in leadership positions, etc. it is a very long list of things we as humans care about — the more a brand aligns with our values the more we’re willing to buy what they’re selling.”
While influencer marketing agency execs expect the push for inclusion in influencer marketing to continue, they did note that the partnership between Bud Light and Mulvaney was surprising. “You don’t usually see a brand that has a majority of a demographic under one value set risking their potential business at broad scale to go in the other direction,” noted Segar. “You have to compliment them for doing it.”
Some, including myself, admire such a demographic-based risk from a brand whereas other consumers may find it challenging.
Bud Light has previously highlighted the LGBTQ+ community in its advertising before. Last May, for example, the beer behemoth announced a partnership with the National LGBT Chamber of Commerce (NGLCC) while highlighting the brand’s “20 years of support of the LGBTQ+ community through various organisations and activations.”
So far, there haven’t been ripple effects of the ongoing backlash cycle to influencer marketing agencies and the requests they get from clients. Luckily, influencer agency execs say that brands are still seeking to be more inclusive with their influencer marketing efforts and that brands haven’t been asking questions about how the Bud Light situation could impact them. As we progress, influencer marketing execs believe brands need to be prepared for potential backlash and be ready to back their decision to support trans influencers for both the safety for both the influencer and aligning clientele alike.