Was the Bud Light divisive commercial intentional virality or a naive lack of culture?

“This brand is in decline, it’s been in a 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” Alissa Heinerscheid, Bud Lights Vice President of Marketing a few days before viral trans TikToker Dylan Mulvaney’s Bud Light social media post went live. 

Heirnerscheid went on to note that evolving the brand’s approach to be more inclusive, by appealing to a broader diversity of consumers including women was key. She also commented that this growth plan would require moving away from “fratty and out-of-touch humour.”

The decision to make a trans influencer the face of Bud Light’s latest campaign was a controversial one. There are a lot heterosexual American men who drink beer…

The campaign was met by many forms of backlash including Nashville country singer John Rich announcing that he’ll now be pulling Bud Light from his restaurant but used the Budweiser cans to make an American flag in his restaurant. A video of Kid Rock shooting cases of the Bud Light in an open field also went viral.

What is most interesting perhaps, is that despite wanting to support the LGBTQ+ community via Mulvaney, the brand has remained silent since the many cases of controversial backlash.
Furthermore, only a few weeks later, Budweiser published a new commercial that leaned hard into the beer brand’s roots and focused heavily on the “American spirit.” It features straight boy cowboys and horses running around the deep south. 

Brendan Whitworth, CEO of Anheuser Busch, said that, “We never intended to be part of a discussion that divides people. We are in the business of bringing people together over a beer.”

Late last week, Forbes wrote on the lack of response from Bud Light saying; “It feels implausible that a brand who partners with someone from the transgender community would be unaware of the opposition people from this community experience. It shows both naivete and a lack of cultural intelligence.”

On the other hand, marketing TikToker Jes, @marketinginmiami, states that this move by the brand is entirely intentional and crafted by some of the greatest brains in marketing. She also states that while Mulvaney is the face of Bud Light, the Americana ad was for Budweiser – perhaps the brand is aiming for different audiences with different products? She makes a good point. “Marketing isn’t just about planning for successes. It’s also for purposely torpedoing things that you want to pivot and so you plan for failure. They are staying a relevant beer distributor by commenting on the (divisive) times.” Younger consumers are consuming Bud Light with older ones consuming Budweiser…

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