A Chastened Anheuser-Busch Moves on

Anheuser-Busch InBev released second quarter data today. The Wall Street Journal reports:

The culture wars have cost Bud Light big time. Now, the beer brand’s owner says its market share is stabilizing and that it will win back drinkers by staying away from controversial topics.
Anheuser-Busch InBev, the world’s largest brewer, said Thursday its U.S. sales, profit and market share had all fallen sharply in the second quarter as consumers abandoned Bud Light following a promotion it did with transgender influencer Dylan Mulvaney.

The numbers:

In the wake of the Bud Light episode, AB InBev’s share of the total U.S. beer market has fallen by 5.2 percentage points to 36.9% in the second quarter, Doukeris said. Two-thirds of that loss is from Bud Light but other brands such as Budweiser have taken a hit from the consumer boycott, too.
The company said its second-quarter revenue in the U.S.—its largest market—dropped 10.5%, while earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization plunged 28.2%. The brewer attributed the big profit drop to its market-share loss as well as spending more on marketing and support for distributors who have been battered by the slump in Bud Light.

Anheuser Busch says it conducted a poll that indicates 80% of consumers have a positive or neutral opinion of Bud Light. The company intends to get customers back by staying out of politics:

“Beer is about relaxation,” Chief Executive Michel Doukeris said in an interview. “People do not want to enjoy their beer with a debate. They want beer to be simple, beer to be for everyone and beer to be enjoyable as they share it with family and friends.”
Doukeris said consumers want the company to focus its marketing on things that appeal widely, such as the National Football League, music and helping military families. “We continue to learn and we continue to move forward with the main activities we know that work everywhere,” he added.

It is remarkable that companies like Anheuser Busch pay marketers large sums of money even though they apparently do not understand that “beer is about relaxation.” I doubt that those people actually drink beer, particularly a down-market brand like Bud Light.

Alissa Heinerscheid and Daniel Blake, the two executives placed on leave, are still out, Doukeris said. Citing their safety and privacy, he declined to comment on whether they would return.

I am sure the Anheuser Busch office is a safe place to work, but I am also pretty sure they won’t be back.

Will customers eventually forgive Bud Light? Sure. There is a market for flavorless beer, and Bud Light will eventually regain most of the customers it has lost. But it can’t recover the sales it has forgone in the meantime. And the Bud Light experience will have a salutary impact, I think, on marketers in other industries who think they are too cool for the products they sell.

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