What Lessons Can Other Brands Learn From The Bud Light Controversy?
Sigh. Don’t you just hate it when you lose 6 billion dollars in a week?
That’s not a statement that just any business can say. It’s also a very simplified version of the events that occurred last month. But, whichever way you look at it, Bud Light and its parent company, Anheuser- Busch InBev, have really been going through it recently. This is ever since they collaborated with a very controversial online personality (name withheld, as that is not the focus of this article). In this article, I don’t want to focus on said character. Truth be told, I think they have more than enough focus on them as it is. No, I want to focus on where Bud Light went wrong and what can be learned from this faux pas to avoid your company from earning similar stats and status. Now that the dust has settled to a certain extent, we thought we’d give our take. So, what are the lessons from the Bud Light controversy?
If you don’t know the full story, you can click HERE to read it and then swiftly make your way back. Long story short, Bud Light collaborated with an online personality who is highly controversial. This collaboration caused Bud Light’s sales to plummet due to a major boycott from its previous target market. Regardless of this, the Bud Light Marketing VP at the time went ahead and stuck to her guns on why she felt that the Bud Light target market needed a change from its “fratty” and “out of touch” profile because Bud Light is for everyone and anyone. And herein lies the first problem that I will address.
1. No product is for everyone
You need a target market. And you need to ensure that your target market feels wanted and appreciated. Why go in search of “greener” pastures when you have a working formula? Why not create a new drink that’s for a different target market? It seems lazy to try and capitalize off of what you think is popular as a brand without actually researching if it makes sense to do so. That leads to the next problem.
2. Wrong collaboration
Based off of our research, this online personality does have a significant audience of young, impressionable teenagers (and has also begun to play the role of a 6 year old girl?). Anyway, why on earth would you use this particular person to market Bud Light (an alcoholic beverage!) when a significant part of their audience isn’t even your target market? And if that is your target market, you should be locked up right now. This was a generally strange move on their part and shows how little research and thought went into this campaign. Also, their usual buyers couldn’t relate to the person that Bud Light collaborated with so the influence was negative. The Bud Light team saw a possible cash grab because of the follower-count that this online personality has but didn’t bother to think if that would convert the right way – which is to sales and support. Collaborations need to be well thought out and well-planned, not just a quick cash grab idea.
3. Down-talking your real cash cows
When you address your core client or customer, you always have to remain respectful. If you happened to watch the video of Bud Light’s then Marketing VP (she is allegedly on a leave of absence for now) speaking on why their team went ahead with the campaign, she seemed more than a little condescending towards their core market…their buyers. Inclusivity is great, no doubt, but you can include other customers without excluding those who were there before them, no? And if you can’t, then maybe some self-introspection is needed.
4. Pandering to a trend is a no-no
First thing’s first: a trend is exactly that…a trend. I’m not going to speak on what led to all of this furore. I don’t care for politics. I’m speaking solely from a business point of view. Most companies (not all, but most) don’t truly care for your cause. That’s just a fact. They don’t care. They care that YOU care for your cause because then they can exploit that and make money from you. The assumption is that you will support what you care about (i.e pay money to brands that believe in what you do). It’s a mostly correct assumption. Most of the time, it works. In Bud Light’s case, however, the cause they claimed to be supporting is far too controversial to have ever been a good idea. It is a very heated topic, in fact, and rightfully so. So, instead of coming across as “progressive” and “in-tune with the times” (which seem to be important to some customers and brands alike these days), they simply angered the majority.
Adding onto the fact that their core target market are probably the same people who are highly against the cause they were parading, this so-called re-brand was a ridiculously bad move that has cost the company billions in market share. They were pandering to a specific group and a specific cause, and it flopped. Which is why the Execs later back-tracked and said they had no idea this campaign was happening in the first place. In such a large corporation, it would be odd to think that such a major decision was made without proper hierarchy protocol, but that’s the story they spun. It didn’t work and they ended up further angering even those they had aimed to include initially.
Conclusion – Lessons From The Bud Light Controversy
Anyway, this was a classic example of a poor business decision, probably out of merely trying to jump on a bandwagon that wasn’t even going in the right direction. At the end of the day, as difficult as it can be sometimes, the customer, and particularly YOUR CUSTOMER, is king. This is a concept that many companies have lost sight of. Don’t become one of them. Now, let’s wait and see if the likes of Nike suffer the same problem. They, and some other brands, have chosen to collaborate with the same online personality. Truth be told, the world we live in moves on from drama and controversy very quickly these days. People will probably be back to guzzling Bud Light after some time and others will ignore the fact that Nike practically did the same thing Anheuser-Busch did. But, regardless, it’s always best to stay on the smart and right side of business and marketing. Contrary to popular belief, not all publicity is good publicity.
Tell us what you think of this story and let’s chat in the comments.
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