Ah, the ever-evolving landscape of advertising. It seems like just yesterday beer ads were all about bikini-clad women and sophomoric humor aimed at your average Joe Sixpack. But times, they are a-changin’, and Bud Light’s recent ad campaign featuring transgendered models has caused quite the kerfuffle.
Now this might surprise you, but it’s not like the company suddenly swerved hard into Wokeville overnight. Surprisingly, Bud Light has been running similar ads for decades. Were going to get into that in a minute.
Anheuser-Busch works with hundreds of influencers to connect with audiences across various demographics, but you wouldn’t know it with the way social media is blowing up over one particular transgendered individual, named Dylan Mulvaney. The outrage machine is firing on all cylinders, with some news outlets insinuating that Dylan is now the face of Bud Light, and that the company has risked their entire future on woke ideology.
Kid Rock even shot up some Bud Light cans to express his displeasure.
Bud Light’s Market Position and Advertising History
Let’s start with Bud Light.
Known as a refreshing, easy-to-drink beer, Bud Light has held a significant position in the beer market ever since it was introduced in 1982. As a lighter, less bitter alternative to Budweiser, it became the perfect companion for social occasions and appealed to younger more health-conscious consumers. Yes, Bud Light’s popularity has declined, but in that same breath over the last two decades, we have seen an explosion of local craft beers and a newly forming seltzer market that is even more appealing for the calorie-conscious alcoholic.
Back in the good ol’ days, Bud Light’s advertising campaigns consisted of “Spuds McKenzie” the Bull Terrier who was the life of the party, and the “Real Men of Genius” ads that had us chuckling at our own stereotypes. But as time went on, the brand shifted its focus to the social aspect and bringing people together.
And that’s when the company started focusing on LGBTQ-inclusive advertising.
It all began in 1993 with the drag queen-centric “Ladies Night” commercials, and it continued with campaigns such as “Labels belong on beer, not people” and “Be yourself,” just to name a few. The brand also celebrated marriage equality in the company’s Bud Light Party commercial starring Seth Rogen and Amy Schumer where two men are seen getting married.
We could go on and cite over a hundred more examples of Bud Light’s history of working with the LGBTQ community, but I think you get the point. Being woke for Bud Light isn’t something new.
Enter Dylan Mulvaney
If you haven’t heard of Dylan Mulvaney, chances are you’ve ignored social media for the last week. This American actress, comedian, and TikTok sensation skyrocketed to fame during her gender transition journey, amassing nearly 11 million followers along the way. From her theatrical stint as Elder White in “The Book of Mormon” to interviewing U.S. President Joe Biden, Mulvaney’s career has taken off.
And it wasn’t until Kid Rock went Bawitiba on a case of Bud Light that I knew who Dylan was.
Mulvaney represents a new kind of advertiser known as the influencer marketer. Where individuals monetize their following with brands that want to reach a certain type of audience. Bud Light loves influencer marketing. In 2014 they launched a campaign known as #UpForWhatever, which is said to have increased sales by 283% in key target markets.
So when Bud Light decided to partner with Mulvaney, it wasn’t just because they wanted to jump on the inclusivity bandwagon. She has a big audience that Bud Light wants to reach, and Bud Light is okay with shooting lots of darts.
And Dylan’s got the social media reach and clout to back it up. With brand sponsorships from the likes of Maybelline, Nike, and even KitchenAid under her belt. She sounds like a pretty good dart for Bud Light to throw at their proverbial dartboard.
Okay let’s talk about the outrage on social media. To say there was backlash however, is a bit of an understatement.
The Daily Wire had some strange reactions, with Crain & Co commenting that its like “if you’re biggest demographic was fat people and you were selling chocolate and you just decided to start selling lettuce one day,” which is a rough at best analogy. This is then followed up by the comment that “if you go woke, most the time you go broke,” which is a largely unsubstantiated claim.
On social media meanwhile, other have compared it to past historical figures such as Mother Teresa or Joan of Arc, or Rosa Parks whom have yet to be on a can. This might be shocking, but I bet that if any of these people were alive today, had millions of followers on social media, and agreed to promote Bud Light, Anheiser Busch would show them the money in a heart beat.
There is, of course, another form of social media response as well. Such as Kid Rock shooting up several packs of Bud Light in response to Mulvaney being a paid influencer, or others emptying their fridges of Bud Light in protest, and replacing them with brands such as Coors Light – whom also supports the LGBTQ community.
Joe Rogan meanwhile thinks this whole thing is just ridiculous and shouldn’t be a bid deal.
And then there’s the Bud Light marketing director Alissa Heinerscheid – a Harvard grad who might have been a tad too sheltered in her ivory tower.
Okay, so her super clear mandate is to get people young to drink Bud Light. Got it. I was on team Anheiser Busch until I just saw this. She’s making media appearances and discussing brand strategy, totally oblivious to the brewing storm. Of which she personally upgraded to a category 6.
She just carried the ball through the defense, got to the 1 yard line and took a knee. But we all knew where she was heading. She hates that Bud Light caters to heterosexual white males. Also, known as their key demographic.
But hey, who needs a consistent brand image when you can have Clydesdales, am I right?
Analyzing the LGBTQ+ Market
So let me try to answer that question the way she should have.
Why do we want to make the LGBT community feel included, beyond not being assh*les? With close to $1.4 trillion in spending power and being the fastest growing minority segment in the US, it only makes sense for Bud Light, or any brand for that matter, to want to go after this new market.
Dylan has over 11 million followers on social media that are perfect for reaching this audience.
For Bud Light, that means getting the message out to a group of people who may not have considered the brand previously, many of which might be seeing a Bud Light ad for the very first time. The numbers don’t lie: queer-inclusive ads can increase sales by 40%.
We still love frat boys. We still love hillbillies. But if RuPaul wants to drink a Bud Light, we say welcome to the team. Instead, the director for marketing decided to put Anheiser Busch in a position where they are now suspending all influencer marketing campaigns until they sort out this mess.
So, let’s wrap up our deep dive into the Bud Light-Dylan Mulvaney saga. It’s been quite a ride, hasn’t it? But when you really think about it, would any of us have even known about this whole fiasco if it weren’t for the anti-wokesters making a fuss? You see, Bud Light simply hired a brand ambassador who posted a video on her own feed.
Which shouldn’t be a big deal, right? It shouldn’t have. That is until the outrage machine kicked into high gear.
Now, let’s be honest – we don’t all understand the ins and outs of the LGBTQ+ community, and that’s perfectly fine. However, making a mountain out of a molehill in the name of fighting “wokeism” seems to be a favorite pastime for some folks. Fox News can’t go a segment without mentioning woke people. And Bill Maher can’t go a Friday night without whining about young people chopping their dicks off.
Now look, Bud Light’s director of marketing made some, let’s say, less-than-tactful comments, that threw gasoline on a fire. But here’s the thing: grumbling about wokeism on social media is like the new “Gangnam Style.” It’s catchy, it’s everywhere, but deep down, we’re not really sure what it’s all about.
Sure, we can all agree that some ideas pushed in the name of not offending people can be annoying or even counterproductive. But is it worth the outrage and anger? At the end of the day, we need to ask ourselves, do we really care that Bud Light hired a transgendered woman? Or is it just another way for people to project their own insecurities and earn some social media brownie points for being outraged?
Maybe it’s time we all take a step back, crack open a cold one, and let the bubbles settle. Because, quite frankly, there are bigger fish to fry – or should I say, more beers to drink.
Information for this briefing was found via Edgar and the sources mentioned. The author has no securities or affiliations related to this organization. Not a recommendation to buy or sell. Always do additional research and consult a professional before purchasing a security. The author holds no licenses.
As the founder of The Deep Dive, Jay is focused on all aspects of the firm. This includes operations, as well as acting as the primary writer for The Deep Dive’s stock analysis. In addition to The Deep Dive, Jay performs freelance writing for a number of firms and has been published on Stockhouse.com and CannaInvestor Magazine among others.