When Bud light execs heard the buzz that a transgender influencer, Dylan Mulvaney, was drinking their beer in an Instagram video, they thought it was a great idea to get onboard. After all, companies trying to appeal to the LGBTQ community is nothing new. They’re releasing rainbow-colored cans for Pride Month, sponsoring events and donating to LGBT organizations. They’re trying to show that they care about the people who buy their product and are willing to do business with them.
But in the case of Bud Light, the brand’s attempt to show its support for Mulvaney backfired and alienated many of its customers. The company’s parent, Anheuser-Busch InBev, responded to calls for a boycott by placing two of the executives who managed the campaign on leave. According to media reports, Bud Light VP Alissa Heinerscheid and Daniel Blake, who oversees marketing for the company’s mainstream brands, were placed on leave.
In the midst of the controversy, Bud Light’s NPS (net promoter score), which measures how likely customers are to recommend a brand or product to a friend, dropped from 14 to 10. A negative NPS can hurt a company’s sales.
Bud Light has long been a top beer in the United States, but its sales have been declining this year and that decline accelerated in early April, according to NPS tracking firm Comparably. Sales of the beer at bars and restaurants dropped 6% in that period while rivals Miller Lite and Coors Light saw an increase of more than 17%.
Anheuser-Busch InBev CEO Brendan Whitworth addressed the controversy in a statement on April 14. But he didn’t apologize for the company’s handling of the controversy and for the targeted harassment of Heinerscheid, which only further alienated consumers, said Schwartz.
A Bud Light spokesman told CNN that the company is “focused on continuing to deliver quality products to consumers while also ensuring the safety and security of our team members.” He added that the company is providing additional resources and training to employees in the aftermath of the controversy.
But one liquor store owner who wished to remain anonymous says that Bud Light’s sales have taken a hit. He says his small sample size shows that customers are switching to other brands, including Miller Lite and Coors Light. But he thinks Bud Light’s sales will rebound once the backlash dies down.
He thinks it’s important for companies to be authentic and stand up for what they believe in, but he doesn’t agree with the notion of boycotting companies that don’t follow their political views. Besides, the beer industry is so competitive that there’s no shortage of options for people who want to buy a drink. A lot of consumers are just “talking about it, fired up about it, saying they’re never going to drink Bud Light again, yada yada,” he says. “But they’ll be buying it in a month.” He adds that it’s not worth losing customers over a boycott. Bud light customer service