Bud Light may have fumbled its attempt to broaden its customer base by partnering with a transgender influencer. But experts say inclusive marketing is simply good business — and it’s here to stay, Dee-Ann Durbin reported for the Associated Press (AP).
Photo Insert: The industry has acknowledged that reaching out to younger and more diverse consumers is crucial.
“A few years from now, we will look back on this ‘controversy’ with the same embarrassment that we feel when we look back at ‘controversies’ from the past surrounding things like interracial couples in advertising,” said Sarah Reynolds, the chief marketing officer for the human resources platform HiBob, who identifies as queer.
On April 1, transgender influencer Dylan Mulvaney posted a video of herself cracking open a Bud Light on her Instagram page.
She showed off a can with her face on it that Bud Light sent her — one of many corporate freebies she gets and shares with her millions of followers.
But unlike the dress from Rent the Runway or the trip to Denmark from skincare brand Ole Henriksen, the backlash to the beer can was fast and furious. Three days after Mulvaney’s post, Kid Rock posted a video of himself shooting cases of Bud Light. Shares of Bud Light’s parent, AB InBev, temporarily plunged.
This week, Anheuser-Busch — AB InBev’s US subsidiary — confirmed that Alissa Heinerscheid, its vice president of marketing, and her boss, Daniel Blake, are taking a leave of absence.
The company won’t say when they will return or whether they’re being paid. For some, the partnership went too far at a time when transgender issues — including gender-affirming health care and participation in sports — are a divisive topic in state legislatures.
But others — including Heinerscheid herself — say reaching out to younger and more diverse consumers is crucial. According to a 2021 Gallup poll, 21% of people in Generation Z identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender, compared to 3% of Baby Boomers.
Gallup has also found that younger consumers are the most likely to want brands to promote diversity and take a stand on social issues.