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May 1, 2023

Bud Light Grovels With Country Music Ad

The beleaguered brewer is desperately trying to reconnect with an audience it alienated.

If the real marketing geniuses at Anheuser-Busch thought they could simply pander their way back to prosperity, they might’ve misjudged their Bud Light customer base once again.

At issue is a TV ad that appeared last Thursday night during the NFL draft and was later posted to YouTube. The ad shows a young foursome of friends — a clearly heterosexual couple and two seemingly unattached women — all of them smiling and laughing in the rain as they open their cans of Bud Light at a country music festival as the Zac Brown Band’s “Chicken Fried” plays over the top.

A desperate “all-American” pander in an attempt to regain some of the costly ground it lost with its Dylan Mulvaney fiasco? Yep, without a doubt. But, hey, what’s an ostensibly blue-collar beer brand supposed to do after it fornicates with the family canine — light a cigarette?

From March 18 to April 1, during the NCAA basketball tournament, Bud Light led all light beers consumed at bars and restaurants, with sales up 15% according to industry sources. But between April 2 and April 15, as the Mulvaney marketing disaster went viral, Bud Light’s volume declined by 34.7% at those on-premise locations and dropped behind Coors Light among light beers.

That’ll get a brewery’s attention.

We’re not so sure it worked, though. Most American news outlets seem to have ignored this story, perhaps hoping it’d just go away, perhaps hoping that Bud Light can simply ride it out and quietly regain its reputation. But as America’s best newspaper, the UK Daily Mail, reports:

In the three days since the 30-second video was released it has accrued more than 8 million views, but received less than 200 likes. By comparison, the song Chicken Fried was uploaded 14 years ago and has 135 million views and 571,000 likes.

It is not clear how many users “disliked” the new commercial — in 2021 YouTube removed a feature allowing the public to see how many dislikes a video has. Some people argued at the time in doing so it was catering to large corporations that would often become the victims of “dislike attacks.”

Here’s more bad news: Bud Light is being accused on social media of disabling the “comments” function on its YouTube video to avoid all the incoming fire. Said one Twitter user: “Hmmm? What in the hell is this Bud Light? This is not what the people want! We want a effing apology. Not some pandering country video where you turned the comments off. That’s ultimate left wing pansiness.”

Both Bud Light’s vice president of marketing, Alissa Heinerscheid, the genius behind the Dylan Mulvaney campaign, and her boss, Daniel Blake, have taken leaves of absence. According to company insiders, their decisions to step away “wasn’t voluntary.”

As columnist Gary Bauer observed recently, “This is a significant development as it marks the first time in recent years that a major corporation appears to have stepped back from its embrace of the radical LGBTQ+ agenda.”

And with good reason. “These numbers are staggering,” says an April 23 report from Insights Express, a beer-focused newsletter. “Right now this is an extremely difficult scenario for Anheuser Busch, the Bud Light brand and for AB distributors.”

How bad has it gotten for Anheuser-Busch? So bad that the Associated Press is rallying to its rescue with a “fact-check” to refute the rumor that the company is going bankrupt over the Mulvaney backlash. As the AP dutifully reports: “A spokesperson for Anheuser-Busch InBev said there’s ‘no truth’ to the claim the world’s largest beer maker is on the verge of financial ruin. Industry experts note the company remains financially sound, with billions of dollars in assets and a rising stock market price.”

What would we do without “experts”? As for “a rising stock price,” it’s hard to fall off the floor, even if you’ve had too much Bud Light.

All in all, it’s been a rough stretch for Anheuser-Busch — and, we can hope, it’s been a lesson for the rest of corporate America, or at least that part of corporate America that sells goods and services to everyday Americans.

Updated with additional industry input on the plight of Bud Light.

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