Bud Light's work with trans influencer Dylan Mulvaney caused massive controversy, but audiences are still waiting for an adequate response from the brand.
- Bud Light's collaboration with influencer Dylan Mulvaney escalated into anti-trans stigmatism and a call to boycott the beer brand
- Bud Light's stocks decreased following the controversy, while its social media statistics varied
- Consumers have been left wondering how Bud Light will handle the PR crisis during its move towards inclusive branding
Bud Light faces backlash over its collaboration with transgender TikTok influencer Dylan Mulvaney.
For brands as big as Budweiser, partnerships with up-and-coming influencers are just one small part of a much bigger advertising strategy. To celebrate a year since the beginning of her transition journey, Bud Light sent Mulvaney a gift package of customized beer cans featuring her photo.
Audiences soon began heavily criticizing the supposedly controversial brand collaboration.
Influencer Marketing and Brand Ambassadors
Influencer marketing has quickly become an unavoidable part of every marketing strategy, with the influencer marketing industry reaching $16.4 billion in 2022.
As the star of the “Day 365 Of Girlhood” video series documenting her gender transition and with a current tally of 10.8 million followers on TikTok, Dylan Mulvaney should be a logical choice for an influencer marketing collaboration.
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When brands pick the right influencer match, audiences are more likely to give products a chance. Gen Z, a target audience for many well-established brands looking to broaden their horizons and modernize, is most effectively targeted through social media channels like Instagram and TikTok.
According to research by HubSpot Data, 72% of Gen Z and millennials follow influencers on social media.
However, anti-trans stigmatism echoed throughout the U.S., bringing Bud Light’s traditionally old-school Americana branding into question by loyal and long-time consumers.
Despite a news frenzy and public calls to boycott the brand, social media statistics have yielded unpredictable results.
While Bud Light’s Twitter account saw a near 4,000 followers increase in the past 30 days, a rate increase of 41.3%, the brand’s Instagram account has lost more than 3,510 followers.
Additionally, support for Mulvaney continues to grow. Her Instagram account gained a whopping 87,000 new followers since the video of her presenting customized Bud Light cans was released.
Audiences React To Branding Controversy
Two weeks after the outcry over Bud Light’s collaboration with Dylan Mulvaney, the brand released a one minute spot in line with its traditional branding direction.
Featuring a nostalgic and picturesque view of all-American landscapes, the spot, titled “A Shared Spirit,” aims to rectify some of the controversy surrounding its work with Mulvaney.
Confused by the approach, consumers suggested that Bud Light was unsuccessfully attempting to connect with separate target demographics currently facing off in real-life American politics.
Soon after, Anheuser-Busch's CEO Brendan Whitworth published a statement regarding the controversy.
Bud Light has not addressed the future of its influencer partnership with Mulvaney, nor has it publicly commented on its stance on transgender rights following the backlash from conservatives.
In the Spotlight: Brand Values Face Backlash
This is not the first time that a big brand has been forced to deal with backlash as it takes steps toward becoming more inclusive. Nike, Hershey and M&M’s have had to handle similar situations in recent months.
#BoycottHersheys became the number one trending topic on Twitter after the chocolate and cocoa company released an International Women’s Day campaign featuring a transgender woman. The Hershey Company publicly stood behind its decision to feature Fae Johnstone, insisting on values of “togetherness and diversity.”
Following certain stylistic changes made to M&M’s “spokescandies” to make them more inclusive, the company went a step backward by pulling the campaign altogether. M&M’s concluded by “taking an indefinite pause on the spokescandies.”
As Bud Light’s sales have decreased over the years, its partnership with Mulvaney can be seen as a bid to diversify and broaden its target audience.
However, not every brand can back diversity. When presenting itself as inclusive, Bud Light must be ready to take the heat as well as the next steps forward to back their choices.
A public statement defending Bud Light’s push for authentic inclusivity could have been a step in the right direction and even a move to further transgender rights through corporate and social responsibility. What surely will not help is an unclear stance.