Anheuser-Busch InBev is the largest beer maker in the world, producing six of the top 10 beer brands by volume, and enjoying sales of well over $1 billion a year.
Now, in a marketing debacle that will be studied and written about by MBA students for decades, Bud Light has cratered the company’s reputation.
Bud Light had been pure gold in the advertising industry since the 1980s, long before the Spuds McKenzie, the female bull terrier party animal mascot of the 1980s, and the hilarious “Real Men of Genius” ad campaign of the late 1990s became woven into popular culture. Bud Light brand building has been right up there with the NFL, arguably the most successful marketing organization on the planet.
But that was not good enough for Alissa Gordon Heinerscheid, the newly named vice president of Bud Light. The image of the company was just too “fratty,” she explained in a recent podcast, during which she insulted the customers that have sustained the brand for decades.
The beer’s new mascot would become a man all dolled up like a preteen girl: Dylan Mulvaney.
Heinerscheid believes she is on the cutting edge because the beer label had been in decline. On the “Make Yourself at Home” podcast she explained how she is on a mission to evolve the brand:
“So I have this super clear mandate. We need to evolve and elevate this incredibly iconic brand. And my, what I brought to that, was a belief in ‘OK, 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,” Heinerscheid said.
“And representation is … at the heart of evolution. You’ve gotta see people who will reflect you in the work. And we had this hangover. I mean Bud Light had been kind of a brand of fratty, kind of out-of-touch humor,” she explained.
And that, beer lovers, is how transgender activist Mulvaney came to be the new face of Bud Light. Mulvaney, a TikTok star and transgender personality who has done incredibly well in the famous-for-being-famous space, has brought his version of come-hither trans sexuality into the brand best known for a low-calorie, low-carb buzz, with notes of hops and malt.
The real marketing men and women of genius over at Budweiser forgot one thing: Don’t hate your customer.
When it launched Heinerscheid as its new VP during the Super Bowl, she explained to Forbes magazine that the 2023 Super Bowl ad, featuring people dancing as they are on a phone call hold, was the company’s new shift to showing real people, especially women.
“This campaign is meant to feel different, to be lighter and brighter, with a confidence and magnetism, and it’s really critical to depict real people and real places,” she told Forbes. “What I need to do to help this brand to evolve … this is my passion point.”
Heinerscheid told Forbes that Bud Light has been “everything to everyone, and as a result, we’ve not been (mindful) about where it shows up.”
Then she spoke to the importance of women. Her top strategic priority was to make sure that women were represented: “Female representation is a personal passion point of mine.”
By April 1, Heinerscheid decided that real people were not the market and female representation was not the priority.
Instead, a wholly manufactured TikTok personality, famous for skipping around a little girl’s bedroom like a pre-pubescent girl, is the real person that represents the brand.
Pro-tip: You’ll never be able to replace all the customers you lose at once with your new target market.
It appears Bud Light is targeting pre-teens, and Dylan Mulvaney does play-act the role of an underage girl. But that is a targeting blunder for another column.
If you’re one of the most successful brands in the history of marketing, and if you’re hating on your existing customer while you search for a better customer, maybe this Bud blunder is on you.
Real Men of Genius and Spuds McKenzie, the campaigns that built the brand, spoke to America with humor and storytelling.
Perhaps it is not just the customer that Bud Light has decided to hate. Perhaps the corporate geniuses, looking for that ESG (Environmental, Social, Governance) preferential scoring for investors, have simply decided to hate Americans because they are not woke enough or trans enough for the “evolving” brand.
Good luck with that strategy, geniuses. As for Americans, this Bud may not be for you.
Suzanne Downing is publisher of Must Read Alaska.
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This was a giant mistake made by a woke and clueless VP and company’s leadership or lack there of. They have no clue who drinks their product. Working men and women were Buds consumer base and not men pretending to be women. Bud will never be the same and they will continue to lose money and customers. Karma!
Isn’t this special. We have an iconic brand taken down by a “female” VP who looks more like a tranny than Mulvaney and a CEO who use to be a CIA operative but is now a sniveling coward. You just can’t make this s*** up. Now we find out that BUD discriminates based on race and sexual perversion. To top it all off, Bud Lite really sucks so this boycott is EASY. Bottom line? BUD submits earnings report on May 4 so grab a Coors, sit back and enjoy the show.