The beer that’s used silly ads and frat-boyish humor to set itself apart from the six-pack has grown up a bit for its Super Bowl ad. This year, Bud Light will feature a female and a transgender person in its commercial as part of its effort to make sure the brand speaks to a wider audience and attracts more people to its brands.
But this push is coming at a price for the company. Sales for Bud light customer service have slumped since the company’s social media promotion with transgender influencer Dylan Mulvaney, whose video of herself cracking open a can of beer sparked conservative backlash. The company’s stock value dropped nearly $5 billion, and some people are calling for a boycott of the beer.
Anheuser-Busch InBev executives are on leave as the company deals with the fallout of the controversy. Several of its facilities have received threats, and a Los Angeles police department sweep was conducted at one brewery last week. The beer’s parent company has also heard from consumers who say they’ll never buy Bud Light again. The backlash has also led to the removal of two of its executives.
Some of Bud Light’s traditional core audience feels betrayed by the company’s outreach with a transgender woman, and they feel like the company has gone “woke.” This could make them less likely to support other companies that work with transgender people, says marketing professor Doreen Shanahan.
But other beer drinkers have come to the brand’s defense. Democratic Congressman Ted Lieu of California and Florida state representative Angie Dixon both posted to their Twitter feeds photos of themselves holding Bud Light cans with a message of support for the company. Some Bud Light fans even created a hashtag on social media called #BUDlightMustStand and encouraged others to show support for the company.
While the controversy has hurt Bud Light, it also highlights how hard it is for a brand to please everyone. Many people are going to love the company’s latest commercial, and others will hate it, says Seo. That’s what makes marketing so challenging.
Bud Light has worked hard to establish itself as a friendly brand to LGBTQ people, with initiatives like its rainbow cans and support for GLAAD. The company isn’t likely to stop embracing the community, and its efforts might pay off in the long run.
A survey from Comparably, which collects and analyzes employee data from over 500 companies, found that Bud Light employees are very happy with their jobs. The beer maker had a high score of 9 out of 10, putting it in the top 10% for companies with more than 200 employees. Employees who score in the 9s and 10s are referred to as Promoters, and they are highly sought after by other companies because they create value for their peers. In contrast, those who rate a company below a 7 are Passives, and they have a negative impact on the people around them.