In recent years, influencer marketing has become a popular and powerful tool for businesses to reach new audiences and promote their products or services. However, the effectiveness of influencer marketing has been questioned by many, with some suggesting that much of it is either fraudulent or simply useless.

Recently, there was a case of influencer marketing that didn’t go as planned.

Bud Light collaborated with Dylan Mulvaney, a transgender social media influencer, which caused a lot of controversy and backlash from their loyal customers. As a result, their sales were significantly impacted. According to Nielsen IQ and Bump Williams Consulting, Bud Light’s sales went down by 21% during the week ending on April 22, and the amount of beer sold dropped by 26% which was even more severe.

The case of Bud Light highlights the risks associated with influencer marketing. It is crucial for businesses to have a thorough understanding of their target audience and carefully select the appropriate influencers to work with. Otherwise, a misstep can result in negative consequences, such as decreased sales and damaged brand image.

Influencer marketing is a strategy in which businesses collaborate with social media influencers to endorse their products and services. Influencers are influential people who have a massive following on platforms such as Instagram, YouTube, or TikTok, and can sway the opinions and purchasing decisions of their followers..

The appeal of influencer marketing lies in its ability to reach a younger generation of consumers who are more likely to be influenced by social media than traditional advertising.

Studies have indicated that Millennials and Gen Z individuals have more confidence in influencers compared to traditional celebrities or advertisements. They perceive influencers as more genuine and easy to relate to, hence are more inclined to abide by their suggestions.

Bud Light’s marketing boss Alissa Heinerscheid, the woman behind the campaign, is taking a “leave of absence,” and has been replaced by Budweiser VP of global marketing, Tod Allen. The company has stated that they have made some adjustments to streamline the structure of their marketing function to reduce layers so that their most senior marketers are more closely connected to every aspect of their brand activities.

The recent partnership of Bud Light with trans social media influencer Dylan Mulvaney caused controversy and backlash among Bud Light’s core customers, including national politicians. Most Bud Light drinkers don’t want to be depicted in the same camp as trans TikTok stars, and every brand doesn’t need to be avowedly “inclusive.” One wonders how some CMOs and the well-paid people who whisper in their ear can be so foolish.

Rumors suggest that A-B will bring back its trusty Clydesdale horses to remedy matters. However, it remains to be seen whether this will work or lead to more problems. It’s surprising that some companies still don’t understand the importance of knowing their audience and choosing the right marketing strategies to appeal to them.

According to Ben Schott, an expert in advertising and branding, the Bud Light controversy serves as a marketing case study on how not to handle brand collaborations in a polarized environment. Schott compared the incident to infamous brand gaffes such as the chairman of Barilla pasta’s declaration in 2013 that he “would never do a commercial with a homosexual family” and the CEO of Abercrombie and Fitch’s statement in 2006 that the company only wanted “cool” and “attractive” customers, admitting that the brand was exclusionary.

Schott argues that Bud Light’s action was worse than a gaffe; it was a betrayal. The brand’s cowardly silence left Mulvaney alone as the controversy spread both online and in bars across the country. According to Schott, Bud Light eagerly sought out a controversial influencer in a polarized environment but lacked the foresight to plan for a backlash or the courage to stand by its partner.

While sympathetic to Mulvaney, Schott condemned Bud Light for selecting her for a campaign and then abandoning her when the situation became challenging.

Bud Light’s parent company, Anheuser-Busch, has distanced itself from transgender influencer Dylan Mulvaney, stating that Mulvaney’s post was not part of a campaign, during an earnings call with investors. The company faced widespread backlash and calls for a boycott from conservative regions of the country after Mulvaney posted a photo with a Bud Light in a bathtub on TikTok.

The controversy resulted in a 21% drop in Bud Light sales for the week ending on April 22, according to Nielsen IQ and Bump Williams Consulting. Michel Doukeris, the company’s top executive, has condemned the “misinformation” spread on social media and stated that the company is providing direct financial support to those impacted by the backlash.

However, critics have accused the company of pandering with a new countrified YouTube ad, which features young beer drinkers at a country music festival.

The case of Bud Light and Dylan Mulvaney highlights the importance of carefully selecting influencers and understanding one’s target audience in influencer marketing. While influencer marketing can be an effective tool for reaching younger generations, it can also come with significant risks if not executed properly.

Companies must be aware of the potential backlash and have a plan in place to handle negative responses. Bud Light’s lack of preparation and abandonment of their influencer partner serves as a cautionary tale for brands. There’s nothing wrong with partnering with a trans celebrity, but if you do it, you need to understand your audience and the reactions.

The Bud Light controversy also demonstrates the power of social media and the influence of consumers. In today’s digital age, consumers have more power than ever before to voice their opinions and affect a brand’s reputation and sales. Companies must be mindful of this and take measures to listen to their consumers and respond appropriately.

Ultimately, the Bud Light case serves as a reminder that companies must be diligent and thoughtful in their marketing strategies. While influencer marketing can be a powerful tool for reaching new audiences, it should be approached with caution and careful consideration. By understanding their target audience and selecting appropriate influencers, companies can mitigate risks and maximize the potential benefits of influencer marketing.

What's your opinion?