The Culture Wars and Anheuser-Busch's Calculated Move
Will Armstrong *
Armstrong Public Relations *
Marketing has always been about understanding the consumer psyche and creating campaigns that resonate with them. Anheuser-Busch, the parent company of Bud Light, recently proved that they understand the power of controversy as part of their marketing strategy. The company partnered with US transgender influencer Dylan Mulvaney and went so far as to print cans with her face on them, which ignited a firestorm of controversy. This move by Anheuser-Busch could have lost the company customers, but was it a calculated risk or a terrible mistake? In this post, we’ll examine why Anheuser-Busch’s move was a strategic one and what lessons we can learn from this situation.
The Mulvaney-Bud Light activation generated outrage from conservative groups both online and offline. However, this controversy is not new - Nike’s Colin Kaepernick ad campaign received similar backlash when they chose to feature the former NFL player who took a knee during the national anthem. Despite the backlash, the campaign was ultimately successful, generating millions in sales revenue. Anheuser-Busch appears to have taken a calculated risk, recognizing the potential for negative attention, but believing that the additional social media exposure would ultimately lead to increased brand awareness and revenue.
Anheuser-Busch most likely conducted extensive market research, understanding their target audience and their values. By supporting a marginalized group, such as the transgender community, the company could potentially create a loyal fan base that shares the same values as the brand. Furthermore, it is clear Anheuser-Busch recognizes the growing importance of the LGBTQ+ community as a significant consumer group. According to a survey conducted by Harris Poll, 60% of US consumers believe that companies should take a stance on social issues. By aligning themselves with Mulvaney, the company made it clear that they are willing to put themselves on the front line of current cultural conversations.
It is essential we keep in mind, however, that Anheuser-Busch is a company, and the ultimate goal is to increase profits. A potential loss of conservative customers was a calculated trade-off for the potential reward of securing a loyal fan base that shares the company’s values. This type of marketing move should be weighed carefully - the reward should always outweigh the potential cost of controversy. When making a strategic decision like this, it’s important to ask what sets your brand apart from others, how your brand presents itself, and who your brand’s consumers are. Taking time to understand these factors will help determine the best course of action when creating a marketing campaign that resonates with your target audience.
The Mulvaney-Bud Light partnership offers an excellent example of how to create a powerful marketing campaign. To create a successful campaign, it is essential to have a deep understanding of your target audience and their values and to take calculated risks that ultimately lead to increased revenue. Anheuser-Busch’s move may have generated controversy, but it also created loyal fans, increasing brand awareness and positioning them as a socially conscious company. The Mulvaney-Bud Light controversy offers valuable lessons for marketers to consider as they plan their marketing campaigns moving forward. I personally with be more inclined to order an ice-cold Bud-light the next time I eat pizza or wings. Bravo Bud Light!