Anheuser-Busch is trying to convince wholesalers that the Dylan Mulvaney controversy that has caused sales of Bud Light to plummet has been overblown.
The brewery sent a letter to wholesalers about the backlash to the trans-identifying influencer posting a TikTok video with a can of Bud Light that had Mulvaney’s face on it. In the video, Mulvaney celebrated 365 days of “being a woman.”
“This was one single can given to one social media influencer,” the letter declares. “It was not made for production or sale to the general public. This can is not a formal campaign or advertisement.”
The letter was forwarded to retailers, bars, and restaurants by Grey Eagle, which distributes Anheuser-Busch products, the St. Louis Dispatch reported. A cover letter from Grey Eagle stated, “Anheuser-Busch did not intend to create controversy or make a political statement.”
“In reality, the Bud Light can posted by a social media influencer that sparked all the conversation was provided by an outside agency without Anheuser-Busch management awareness or approval,” Grey Eagle continued. “Since that time, the lack of oversight and control over marketing decisions has been addressed and a new VP of Bud Light marketing has been announced.”
“The minute you step into the political or religious spectrum, when you know your target audience is going to have a real issue with this, you know you’ve alienated at least half of your target audience,” Robert Lachky, the former chief creative officer at Anheuser-Busch, told the Dispatch. “In the end, people don’t like getting preached to, especially when it comes to drinking beer.”
Soon after InBev, based in Belgium, purchased Anheuser-Busch in 2008, Lachky left. He said that foreign marketers didn’t understand American consumers. He said of the current marketing team, “None of these marketing folks has ever been to a NASCAR race, none has been to a football game or a rodeo. That’s insanity. That’s marketing incompetence.”
In the wake of the controversy, Anheuser-Busch is reportedly offering a free case of beer to every employee of its wholesaler network.
The giveaway may just be the only viable plan to get rid of a product that customers are rejecting. The company’s wholesaler network, which consists of many family-run businesses, has been hurt by the disastrous PR stunt and the boycott that has followed.