Bitter sip of woke at Anheuser-Busch


A group of marketing execs at Anheuser-Busch, the company that created the Budweiser beer franchise, are brainstorming about their inability to extend Bud’s client base beyond traditional beer drinkers, i.e. older, working-class males.

They want a new hipster generation of millennials and Gen-Z’ers to start enjoying cold ones as well. But it’s a real balancing act. Young people just won’t drop their craft cocktails and spiked sodas for beer overnight. And you can’t just ignore your long-time customers.

“I got an idea,” says one of the suits, “let’s do a commercial featuring a trans woman and social-media influencer sipping a Bud Light, semi-nude, in a bubble bath.”

“Brilliant!” the head of marketing beams, “Problem solved!”

The aforementioned is a parody, of course. But like most parodies, it contains some striking elements of truth. It speaks to our latest example of corporate wokeism run amok, one that, if you’ve been following the news lately, threatens to ruin a corporate brand that took nearly two centuries to cultivate, and maybe two weeks to destroy.

On these pages we’ve chronicled the noxious critical-race-theory indoctrination sessions at big firms like American Express, and Disney’s weird political opposition to a Florida law that only seeks to prevent schools from teaching sex-ed to toddlers. Jamie Dimon, the normally sensible CEO of banking giant JPMorgan, taking a knee for a photo in apparent allegiance to the radical Black Lives Matter movement.

Mulvaney channeled Audrey Hepburn in her video about the cans.

Called out on their actions amid backlash from customers, AmEx execs tell me those CRT sessions are no longer in place. Disney has toned down its lefty politics with the return of Bob Iger as CEO. The PR staff at JPMorgan now contend that Dimon took a knee to make sure people behind him weren’t obstructed.

Anheuser-Busch is also scrambling to justify why its new ads featuring the transgender TikTok influencer and activist Dylan Mulvaney are a cool way of reaching new customers while not offending its current ones.

It’s not working; Kid Rock recently took to social media posting a video of him shooting at cans of Bud Light. It went viral. Bars are reporting a drop in Bud Light sales. The company’s stock lost billions in market cap.

Kid Rock
Kid Rock shot cans of Bud Light, calling for a boycott.

Sheer ‘Madness’

Common sense is always a better sales pitch than woke activism and there’s nothing common or sensical about Mulvaney luxuriating in a bubble bath and giggling while sipping a can of Bud Light. In another, Mulvaney is glammed up to resemble one of the quintessential female characters in literature and pop culture, Holly Golightly from “Breakfast at Tiffany’s.”

“I kept hearing about this thing called March Madness and I just thought we were all having a hectic month, but as it turns out it has something to do with sports,” Mulvaney purrs while sipping a can of Bud Light. That she does this with a faux and exaggerated feminized accent, feigning ignorance about one of the country’s biggest sporting events, doesn’t make it any less cringey and sexist.

The ads are running on social media, which made the situation worse because they evaded normal airing before beer wholesalers at their annual convention in January, I am told. They get to see upcoming TV spots and often weigh in on their quality. 

Budweiser, of course, was the creation of Adolphus Busch, who founded the beermaker and distributor Anheuser-Busch after he served in the Civil War. It’s an iconic American brand. Bud’s commercials play during Super Bowls, and included the Clydesdales, and my favorite, Spuds MacKenzie. They stressed commonality and community. When you drink a Bud, you’re an American. Full stop.

Does that mean trans people don’t drink beer or aren’t American? Of course not. In any case, the trans community deserves respect. But it’s the sexualized politicization of a brand that pisses off so many Americans, including yours truly. The trans movement has gone far beyond demanding acceptance to advocacy and dogma in schools, cultural institutions and, now, with the help of increasingly progressive and politicized corporate ad and marketing departments, beer drinking.

When will it stop? According to Wall Street traders, the answer is in the stock market, and they’re taking bets.

Bud Light can smashed
The ads are running on social media.
Alamy Stock Photo

The company’s new leadership is grappling with lower beer sales and shrinking profit margins. Shares are down nearly 40% over the past five years compared to a 50% rise in the S&P.

To reverse the company’s long-term downward trajectory, it makes sense to appeal to new potential customers, though it seems odd that someone at Anheuser-Busch chose to accomplish that by alienating current ones. At one point last week, the company’s market value cratered by around $5 billion.

A Wall Street trader says North American sales now make up less than 30% of revenues; so far, the recent drop off in sales is impacting certain areas of the US that are culturally conservative.

But Anheuser-Busch doesn’t exactly have large room for error given the trends it’s trying to fight against. 

“Is it really prudent to ignore the market that got you where you are?” my trader source asks.

The stock market is asking that question and answering with a resounding “no.” 

As for Anheuser Busch, the company wouldn’t respond to repeated requests for comment.