We should all be grateful to Anheuser-Busch.
Some company needed to show how wake marketing could cost an iconic American brand dearly in terms of image, revenue and market capitalization.
Through his special beer can made for trans influencer Dylan Mulvaney, Anheuser-Busch practically volunteered for duty.
The CEO of General Motors didn’t really say in the 1950s that what’s good for GM is good for the country.
Still, to paraphrase automobile exec Charles Wilson’s famous misquote: what’s terrible for bud-light sales is good for America.
With every anti-bud light viral video and every 12-pack scrapped on a store shelf or in a warehouse, the message is sent to other companies that gratuitous forays into the culture war are risky.
Target directly learned the same lesson with its “Pride” apparel, removing some clothing items and making the associated displays less prominent.
Coupled with the ongoing dispute over Disney, whose image has taken a major hit with Republicans, the outbursts suggest we’ve entered a new era of conservative consumer power.
There’s no doubt that the rise of social media has made it possible to publicize controversy quickly, and conservatives have a renewed sense of how businesses can go against their values and interests.
However, the recent boycott successes are not necessarily reproducible.
Bud Light proved particularly vulnerable.
His brand was a quintessentially American product, the favorite beer for barbecues, hunting trips and ball games – as easy to enjoy and undisputed as a Fourth of July flyover.
Dylan Mulvaney’s advert was incredibly off-brand.
Why would a beer company, especially an unpretentious mass-market beer company, get in touch with a gay man who’s decided to be a woman and is prancing around like a teenager?
What does “beer” or “Central America” say about Dylan Mulvaney?
Mulvaney made it worse by creating indelible images by dressing like Holly Golightly from Breakfast at Tiffany’s with loads of Bud Light in one video and relaxing in a bathtub in another.
What happened is more than a boycott; Bud Light has become a national joke.
Today, its signature blue and white cans and bottles stand for ineptness and no-touch marketing.
Getting a six pack shows you aren’t kidding.
The advantage of Bud Light was that it was widely known and readily available; The problem is that the competitors are just as readily available.
Once someone stops and thinks about it for a minute, it’s just as easy to grab the Coors Light or something else right next to the Bud Light on the shelf or in the freezer.
In fact, according to the Wall Street Journal, retail sales of Bud Light in the U.S. were down 17% on April 15, and sales of Coors Light and Miller Lite were each up 17%.
As for Target, while it won’t be hit as hard as Anheuser-Busch, it’s a low-margin company that can’t afford unnecessary consumer turmoil.
At the other end of the spectrum are hard-to-boycott entities like the Los Angeles Dodgers, which have affiliated with an anti-Catholic gay activist group.
The offended Dodgers fan might vehemently object, but he can’t just stand up and cheer for the Los Angeles Angels.
The best outcome of all of this would be if corporations realized that there were potential costs involved in catching up with the awakened cultural trend and resolved to hold on to the 50-yard line of American national life.
No one will mind if a boutique brand based somewhere in blue America associates itself with every new progressive fad.
It’s the companies that are firmly entrenched in the mainstream and shouldn’t unnecessarily alienate people or take sides in disputes unrelated to their core business.
Bud Light continually warns of danger.
It’s certainly not the future that old Adolphus Busch envisioned for his company, but it’s useful nonetheless.