In a move that may have seen the brand take a step backward in its quest to be more ‘woke’, Bud light customer service has taken two of its top marketing executives on leave. This follows an uproar over the beer maker’s decision to partner with transgender influencer Dylan Mulvaney for a campaign celebrating March Madness and her transition to womanhood, which triggered conservatives on social media and online to call for a boycott of the brand.
Amid the backlash, Bud Light’s parent company, Anheuser-Busch InBev, saw its stock price fall 6%. But if the company’s sales numbers are any indication, it looks like that boycott will only be a minor setback.
According to the research firm Brandwatch, Bud Light’s net promoter score – which measures how likely a consumer is to recommend the beer to friends – dropped from a high of 15 to a low of 9. This means that despite the controversy over its campaign with Mulvaney, most of the brand’s loyal customers are still willing to stick with Bud Light.
That’s because the beer is cheap, well-known and available in just about every bar and store across America. But some experts think that Bud Light’s decision to jump into the culture wars will cost it in the long run. “When you’re a major brand, it’s important not to get caught up in these conversations that are polarizing,” Joanna Schwartz, a professor at Georgia College and State University who teaches a class on LGBTQ+ marketing, told Vox. “It’s hard to get out of it once you’re in it.”
It’s also possible that the backlash against Bud Light will lead some other brands to rethink their use of transgender people in their ads. Schwartz said she’s heard from students who have taken her class that some of their employers might be reconsidering using transgender people in their advertising. “The problem is that companies want to be inclusive and reach everyone, but that also means including people who don’t agree with you,” she added.
One beer industry analyst told FOX Business that he’s seeing Bud Light draft sales at bars drop this week, but he doesn’t expect a lasting boycott. “I think it’s a matter of time until the spotlight fades and the enthusiasm dies down,” he said.
But that doesn’t mean that the beer’s troubles are over. A rep for Anheuser-Busch InBev said that the company was moving to support its Bud Light customers in the wake of the controversy and that they’d have more details soon.
But this isn’t the first time that Bud Light has found itself in a bit of hot water for their marketing choices. In fact, this is just the latest in a series of high-profile marketing misfires for the company that has resulted in boycotts from consumers and even some investors.