Transgender influencer Dylan Mulvaney overshadowed Anheuser-Busch InBev’s quarterly results this week, as the global beverage giant sought to reassure investors that the fallout from the controversial partnership could be contained.
The company’s US sales fell after the Bud Light brand was linked in early April to the American social media star, who boasts nearly 11 million followers on TikTok, to promote the low-calorie beer. .
the post on Instagram immediately sparked a culture war backlash that led to consumers ditching the brand as part of a obvious grassroots boycott.
Given many questions from investors about the matter, AB InBev CEO Michel Doukeris rejected the idea on Thursday.
“We have to continue to explain the fact that this is a possibility, an influencer, a post, and not a campaign, and repeat this message for some time,” said Doukeris in the first quarter his company’s earnings call.
While he wants to see beer on the table in every important social debate, the CEO argues that the important lesson learned by his management team is that their product should not find itself at the center of the debate.
“We need to understand the current environment—and especially the social media landscape—and how consumer brands, especially big brands with significant reach, can be attracted to a discussion like this,” Doukeris said.
The Brazilian native told investors he had no intention of getting into identity politics and effectively blamed the move on junior marketing staff making decisions that went over their heads.
Bud Light marketing vice president Alissa Herrscheid has since found herself taking a leave of absence following his decision to promote the brand on Mulvaney’s Instagram channel, where the 26-year-old is followed by almost 2 million users.
Doukeris explained that managers at his level are no longer allowed to take such responsibility on themselves when it comes to campaigns that go viral quickly, and not in the way management wants.
“One important thing in the US is to quickly adjust and streamline our structure,” he said. “So in this situation and given the current environment – especially for the social media landscape – we have senior marketers running the programs.”
Triple US media spending this summer
Boycotts like the one targeting Bud Light have become a tool in the transgender debate on both sides of the issue.
In February, LGBTQ+ activists were hopeful eliminating the need for Warner Bros. Discovery’s new Harry Potter video game in an attempt to offend author and transgender critic JK Rowling.
In response to the criticism, Budweiser has since released a new ad on social media full of Americana imagery, sponsored last week. NFL draftand maintained a “strong presence” at the Stagecoach country music festival last month as it sought to wrap its brand name around sports and entertainment rather than politics.
While Doukeris did not deny the damage visited on his business in the US, the CEO tried to frame it in the context of his vast empire, where AB InBev remains the largest beer brewer in the world.
— Budweiser (@budweiserusa) April 14, 2023
Doukeris argued that reduced sales from the US consumer boycott only reduced the total global volume by 1% in the first three weeks of last month.
Pressed on whether the Bud Light controversy is starting to hurt demand for its other products, Doukeris admits it has. “Publicly available data shows some spillover effect to other brands, while most of the effect is still on Bud Light,” he said.
Although he admitted that “it is too early for us to understand the duration and the overall impact,” he nevertheless reaffirmed the company’s financial targets by 2023.
To restore Budweiser’s credentials as the brand of choice for the everyday, down-to-earth beer drinker, Doukeris now plans to triple US media spending over the summer.
Mulvaney in the meantime since broke his silence about the matter: “I’ve been offline for a few weeks and a lot has been said about me,” said the TikTok star. on Friday.
“It was so loud, I didn’t even feel like part of the conversation so I decided to sit in the back seat and just let them play out.”