Anheuser-Busch has reportedly lost $25 billion over the past few months. The losses have mostly been attributed to a marketing campaign led by Transgender Social Media Influencer Dylan Mulvaney. The ad strangely references March Madness, but Mulvaney implies that she is oblivious to what sport March Madness is referencing. The ad is light-hearted and not at all preachy, almost as if Annheuser-Busch was trying to be socially conscious without drawing too much attention to itself. Unfortunately for Annheuser-Busch and their stakeholders, their audience took inventory of who Dylan Mulvaney is and decided not to give their business to Anheuser-Busch products as a result.
Time will tell as to how much of a long-term impact the marketing campaign will have on Anheuser-Busch’s business. As of July 26, 2023, the brand has lost around 25% market share, which is completely unprecedented. As Kevin O’Leary (AKA Mr Wonderful) from Shark Tank pointed out in Yahoo Finance, “Beer is a commodity, the only difference is brand, so you really have to protect your brand every way you can.”
It wasn’t that long ago, 2017, that Bud Light produced light-hearted gems such as “Dilly Dilly”, and “Whassup” from the late 90’s. In fact, Bud Light really rose to fame after its highly successful Spuds Mckenzie campaign, which certainly appealed to a very different target audience.
To think this was once their brand
The difference between these advertisements and that of the recent Dylan Mulvaney ad is that both those ads targeted their current audience. The summer, highlighted in the US by July 4th, saw one of the country’s previously popular products for the celebration lose more than a few sales to competitors. Modelo Especial was the best selling beer for the second-consecutive month in June. Anheuser-Busch’s aim for selling their products to a new audience while securing their current one has seemingly blown-up in their collective faces.
Many conservatives and center-right personalities have coined the term, “Go Woke, Go Broke” as a response to ads that use social justice as a marketing tool. However, sales of some products do rise as a result of social signaling campaigns. Remember the Gillete “toxic masculinity”campaign? The ad sparked debate and made quite a few people angry, as the irony behind Gillete’s slogan “Gillete, the Best a Man Can Get” quickly became “Gillete, the Best a Man Can Be”. However, sales of Gilletes’ products weren’t impacted, as Procter & Gamble actually saw sales numbers that were in-line with their projections.
The key difference when comparing Gillete and Bud Light is the core consumer that is using their products, and the potential consumer that would consider using that product. Razors and shaving cream are used by a bevy of individuals, regardless of taste, and thus people can easily make a decision on what device they need to remove hair from their bodies. That includes women, whom the toxic masculinity ad speaks to as many women are proactive about removing hair from their bodies. The razor market also has fewer competitors than the beer market. Walk down any aisle with beer and wine coolers at your local grocery store, then compare the amount of options to that of the pharmacy or personal care aisles. There are more competitors/options in the alcohol market. Due to those facts, Gillete was far less likely to see a significant drop in sales and probably even tapped into a new market.
The types of alcohol people ingest are incredibly varied: Whiskey, Vodka, Tequila, Wine, Selzers, Ales, etc.. The plethora of choices let people collect an appetite for whatever taste they acquire. Not only that, but there is a great amount of brand variety within those types. Additionally, the market for light beer caters to a particular audience, most notably men. Per a Gallup 2016 Consumption Habits survey, 54% of men polled stated beer was their preferred alcoholic beverage, compared to just 23% of women. Why is this research relevant to Bud Light utilizing a member of the LGTBQ+ community for one of their advertisements? Moreso, research conducted by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Health Statistics from 2011-2013 indicated that women are three times more likely to report same-sex intimacy than men. But again, most beer drinkers are men!
In hindsight, it is easy to say that Anheuser-Busch should have employed a different marketing strategy given the plummet of their recent sales numbers. Had the company been more sensitive to the demographics, and psychographics, of their audience they could have shaped a different marketing strategy that speaks to their audience while also gaining a new one. It could have been better. Instead, they made the mistake of alienating their core audience while not appealing to the tastes of the consumers they want to retain and attract.