As an aficionado of both beer and the culture wars, the recent Bud Light marketing fiasco has been real catnip for me, and I just couldn’t resist jumping in.
To recap: Bud Light employed “influencer” Dylan Mulvaney, a transgendered woman, as a spokesperson to promote their beer and even created a special can depicting Mulvaney in an evening gown. Their stated intention was to broaden their customer appeal and get rid of what they described as the unfavorable “fratty” and “out of touch” image of their beer, which they felt appealed primarily to members of college fraternities and the like.
It created quite a stir, and things went badly for Bud Light and its parent company, Anheuser-Busch InBev. The campaign was seen as not just an attack on traditional gender roles but the “fratty comment” as an insult to their customer base. A lot of people boycotted the beer, and both sales and stock value have tanked. Panicking, Bud then repudiated the campaign, thereby offending the LGBTQ-plus community, who then instituted their own boycott of the beer. In short, this campaign managed to piss off just about everybody, and will surely end up a case study in corporate malpractice in business school courses for years to come.
The lessons are, first, don’t get caught showing contempt for your existing customer base. If you produce a mediocre product like Bud Light, it is easy for customers to fight back by switching from one watery brew to another watery brew. Or perhaps some of them might even move on to real beer.
Second, if you are going to jump into the culture wars, make sure that the business gained thereby is likely to be greater than the business lost. This requires an understanding of your customer base. Nike’s Kapernick campaign got away with it because of a customer base that was more receptive to their message. Bud Light had no such luck. Bud corporate honcho Alissa Heinerscheid’s brain fart has confirmed what many of us have long suspected about the substance behind a Harvard pedigree. Their marketing should have been designed by folks who actually drink beer.
And third, the timing. While Bud’s campaign wasn’t in itself especially offensive to conservatives—most of whom wouldn’t have even seen it but for the controversy—it came at a time when popular annoyance has been building over the relentless promotion of the transgender agenda in the media and advertising. It seems that Bud was just the “straw that broke the camel’s back,” and they now involuntarily find themselves as the face of the gender wars.
This will probably not be the last battle in the gender wars. To date, we have seen fights over pronoun mandates and other assaults on the English language, like “birthing parent” to replace “mother” and “menstruating person” to replace “woman,” educational programs on gender identity for 6-year-olds, revisions to scientific nomenclature, transition surgery for children, men competing in women’s sports, and “women” with penises parading through women’s locker rooms.
We have even seen activists inventing a provocative new tactic, drag queen reviews for children, just to give the middle finger to the “unenlightened” majority of society.
I am sure that there will be more.
But this collision of the culture wars with the world of beer has given me a “eureka!” moment as I realize that the current elevation of subjective personal “identity” over natural physical characteristics provides me with some wonderful opportunities. I am now able to escape some of the undesired characteristics that I was assigned at birth.
For example, I am an enthusiastic consumer of beer but have been cruelly denied the opportunity to indulge myself as fully as I would prefer by having been assigned the unwanted identity of “potentially portly person” at birth, or at least soon afterwards as I developed the motor skills to open a can of beer. While living my authentic life requires viewing the world through a perpetual beery haze, my unfortunate physical circumstances have made me suffer unwanted bouts of sobriety as I am forced to limit the caloric intake of my preferred beverage.
But by merely “identifying” as svelte and sleek, I can now drink beer to my heart’s content while still living my authentic life as a slender fellow. And, why stop there? Why can’t I also identify as young and good looking? Who would dare challenge me?
The possibilities are endless! I was tragically born with little innate musical talent, but can now identify as a gifted musician, able to fill stadia with adoring fans as I thrill them with breathtaking guitar riffs, and they inundate me with a barrage of adoration.
I now identify as a rock star!
So, just where the hell are my groupies?
John Donegan is a retired attorney in Pismo Beach who is now planning his world tour, and still has seats available on his tour bus. Respond with a commentary of at least 800 words emailed to [email protected].