Ad Age reports there’s been a shakeup among leadership in the marketing department at Bud Light. Anheuser-Busch, the brand’s parent company, has confirmed that Alissa Heinerscheid, the woman behind the disastrous decision to partner with transgender influencer Dylan Mulvaney in their latest marketing campaign, has taken a leave of absence and “will be replaced by Todd Allen, who was most recently global marketing VP for Budweiser.”
In a statement first reported by Beer Business Daily, the company said it had also:
Streamlined its marketing function to reduce layers so that our most senior marketers are more closely connected to every aspect of our brand’s activities. These steps will help us maintain focus on the things we do best: brewing great beer for all consumers, while always making a positive impact in our communities and on our country.”
City Distributors, a Topeka, Kansas-based distributor of Anheuser-Busch products, said in a statement that the decision to partner with Mulvaney “circumvented the proper approval channels.”
Clearly, we can’t know who gave the go-ahead for the ill-conceived marketing campaign or what went on behind closed doors, but the company had to do something to stem the bleeding. It’s not clear when or if Heinerscheid will return to Bud Light. I wouldn’t be surprised if she resurfaced as a business analyst on CNN or MSNBC.
At any rate, the move has led to very real a boycott and a roughly $5 billion decline in Anheuser-Busch’s market capitalization.
The stock price may well recover and the boycott may turn out to be short-term, but it’s also possible that Heinerscheid’s poor judgment has inflicted lasting damage on the company. Her colossal miscalculation has thrust the beer giant smack in the middle of America’s culture war, leaving it in the unenviable position of having to choose between apologizing to its loyal customer base or appeasing the social justice warriors.
The company’s inability to thread this needle has damaged not only its bottom line but its reputation as well. Anheuser-Busch CEO Brendan Whitworth issued a statement last week to calm the waters. But his unwillingness to get around to an actual apology left many of us wondering why he bothered to write it at all.
Predictably, the statement failed to satisfy those on either side of the partisan divide. The company’s reluctance to take a stand one way or the other has managed to alienate both longtime customers and advocates of the transgender movement.
Realizing Whitworth had missed his target, the company tried to evoke “the spirit of America” in a new patriotic ad featuring their signature Clydesdale horses galloping over the fruited plains of the U.S. heartland and past iconic landmarks throughout the country. But the damage had been done.
Before jumping headlong into the culture war, woke corporations need to understand that consumers have choices, especially when it comes to beer, and there is a price to be paid for jumping on the woke train.