A prominent brand strategist has said that the response to the allegations “couldn’t be more different” from the way Bud Light has handled its own controversy, with Miller Lite recently “waking up” with an advertising campaign.
Kelly O’Keefe, founding partner of Brand Federation, who advises companies including Capital One, Walmart and UPS, told newsweek That Bud Light’s response only increased the controversy surrounding the brand, while Miller Light’s defense saw “very little pushback”. He predicted: “A year from now, you’ll see Miller Light doing far better than Bud Light.”
Miller Lite is the latest beverage brand to face calls for a boycott by conservatives on social media, following an ad this week — first announced in March — that celebrated women’s historic role in brewing beer for Women’s History Month .
The company said that the beer industry had “alienated a lot of the people who helped create it” with “outdated” and “sexist” advertising, including some that the company had produced in the past. The commercial featured comedian Ilana Glazer toppling a Miller Lite poster, which featured a scantily clad woman in a garbage can.
O’Keefe said, “The Miller Lite campaign predates Bud Light, so it’s clearly not a response to Bud Light, but the difference is in the way organizations have responded to some of the pushback.” Couldn’t be more different.” newsweek,
He added, “Bud Light and their leadership—including CEO Brendan Whitworth—made a tragic mistake, I think, in trying to hold both sides and failing miserably at it.”
Bud Light and its parent company Anheuser-Busch, of which Whitworth is the US CEO, have been facing backlash since early April after the beer brand featured transgender influencer Dylan Mulvaney to celebrate his first year of transition to a woman. A memorial was sent to Cain.
While experts have said that such campaigns provide an opportunity for brands to appeal to consumers in new markets, critics have accused the companies of alienating their traditional customer base. Some LGBTQ+ campaigners have also criticized the company for not defending its relationship with Mulvaney.
The parting with Mulvaney led to a public display of anger. Musician Kid Rock gunned down several cases of Bud Light in a viral video, while a Republican state senator in Missouri posted a video of himself smashing a can with a baseball bat outside his state capitol building.
In the six weeks since, the company has remained largely silent amid sharply declining sales, making thinly-veiled efforts to appeal to conservatives and placing two of its top marketing executives on leave — described as “knee-jerks”. described as reactions. A marketing strategist first.
On 14 April, Whitworth released a statement, saying: “We never intended to be part of a discussion that divides people. We are in the business of bringing people together over beer.”
O’Keefe said that these steps “did not stop the bleeding” and “only contributed to the bleeding on all sides of the argument.”
“They could have stood above the political division represented in it, taken a stand on a more humanitarian level, and I think the result would have been much shallower,” he said.
“I think it would be easier to say: ‘Look, we celebrate Kid Rock’s right to drink whatever he wants to drink; we encourage him to blast our products with his shotgun. Keep buying cases of Budweiser because it actually sells more beer—but we’re not going to change our values based on some individual’s opinion. And we believe that everyone should be able to hold a cold Budweiser in their hand if they so desire. Has the right to.’ It’s a simple way to avoid controversy,” O’Keefe said.
He argued that the removal of two marketing executives over the controversy was an “excessive maneuver” and “one that would come back to haunt him.” Because of Anheuser-Busch’s handling of the outrage, O’Keefe speculated, “I wouldn’t be surprised to see Whitworth out of that company over time.”
newsweek Polygon contacted Anheuser-Busch via email for comment on Thursday.
The branding expert compared this response to Miller Lite’s parent company, Molson Coors, which explicitly said it would not be laying off Elizabeth Hitch, the marketing director who championed the Women’s History Month campaign.
Adam Collins, chief communications and corporate affairs officer for Molson Coors, said on Tuesday. newsweek: “People may take issue with our ads or our brands, but we will not stand by as people attack our employees personally — especially given that these are company decisions, and never one individual’s. are not carried out by
“What did we see [with] Miller Lite, and Adam Collins in particular, was rightly defending Elizabeth Hitch and her work in making the ad that — shockers of all shockers — celebrates women, and made beer history during a national women’s month. His role in,” commented O’Keefe. So I think the responses have obviously been different, and I think the results will be vastly different.
“I hope Miller Lite gets a lot less pushback from this. I think they rightly recognize that it was a small amount of people complaining about it.”
Arguably, however, women constitute a much larger group of target consumers than transgender people, and are currently the subject of much less controversy than the culture war rhetoric in the trans community.
O’Keefe stated that women “are by no means a fringe group, but have historically been poorly represented, as the Miller Lite ad campaign brings to the fore.” He said that while this was true, “the fundamentals are the same in both cases.”
Both Bud Light and Miller Lite can be considered as abandoning their brand identity on marketing ploys, but O’Keefe describes Miller Lite’s campaign as “surprising” seeing “an opportunity for growth by broadening its customer base”. described.
“They are recognizing that consumer sentiment is changing, and they are also recognizing that the only male audience creates boundaries for growth,” he said. A food branding expert previously said Bud Light’s partnership with Mulvaney could be a bid to push into global emerging markets.
Most of Bud Light’s April sales decline has been absorbed by its competitors, including Miller Lite, which saw a 19.1 percent increase in sales volume in the four weeks to April 29, compared to a 17.2 percent increase in Bud Light sales over the same period. percentage declined.
Do they now risk losing that competitive advantage? O’Keefe thought that the lead would “hold steady” and that the backlash would be mild—partly because “there aren’t a lot of people who want to take a stand against women in today’s world,” but also because “when you stand your ground.” It happens in situations like this that you get respect even after losing something.”