When a company gets hit with social media backlash, it’s a chance for them to show their customer service skills. Anheuser-Busch’s Bud light customer service has been dealing with backlash for a month now, ever since the beer maker partnered with transgender influencer Dylan Mulvaney. The brand sponsored two Instagram posts from her and sent her a can of the beer with her face on it. The move was met with both support from the trans community and conservative backlash. The backlash prompted the company to issue an apology and share some facts about transgender people.
The company’s attempt to calm the controversy also included giving away cases of beer to its wholesale distributors, as well as a donation to LGBTQ organizations. Anheuser-Busch’s share prices took a hit after the controversy, but they eventually rebounded. Bud light sales fell a few percentage points in the weeks following the controversy, but the drop is much less severe than it could have been.
It’s important for brands to take a strong stand when it comes to supporting the LGBTQ community, especially if they’re trying to appeal to young drinkers. The company has a history of doing so, including releasing rainbow-colored cans for Pride Month and partnering with LGBTQ-related groups. It’s not a surprise that some of Bud light’s traditional core audience feels betrayed by the company’s support of Mulvaney and other recent efforts to appeal to the LGBTQ community.
While there is some backlash against Bud light, the beer is still widely available in stores. Anheuser-Busch’s VP of marketing Alissa Heinerscheid recently said on the “Make Yourself at Home” podcast that she wants to transform the brand by making it more inclusive. She believes that Bud light hasn’t been reaching out to younger consumers enough, and that a more inclusive campaign will help the company compete with rising competitors like hard seltzers and spirits.
Heinerscheid has a lot of work ahead of her to win over Bud light’s disgruntled old-school drinkers. Many of them feel like the brand has gone too far into woke territory, and they’re starting to turn their backs on it. One liquor store owner told CNN that he’s seen a small dip in Bud Light sales since the controversy began, but he expects sales to pick up once the buzz dies down.
Anheuser-Busch will have to work hard to regain the trust of its customers if it wants to survive in an increasingly competitive market. Fortunately, experts have previously noted that most calls for boycotts don’t actually result in a boycott, and that controversial campaigns often blow over, as was the case when Nike featured Colin Kaepernick in an ad in 2018. The company’s sales may not recover immediately, but it should find a way to make its core audience feel at home again soon. And a few free cases of beer can go a long way toward doing that.