An executive with Bud Light maker Anheuser-Busch said the boycott against the brand was a “wake-up call” and claimed the light beer will make a comeback.
Bud Light, in a social media promotional campaign, produced a beer can with transgender activist Dylan Mulvaney in early April, drawing immediate backlash. Some country singers and conservative influencers suggested that consumers not purchase the beer, causing sales to drop in every consecutive week following the Mulvaney backlash.
“It’s tough to see the controversial and divisive debates that have been happening in the U.S. in the last couple of weeks involving lots of brands and companies, including and especially Bud Light,” Anheuser-Busch’s global chief marketing officer, Marcel Marcondes, told the Cannes Lions International Festival, according to a report from AdAge. “It’s tough exactly because what we do is all about bringing people together.”
Elaborating, Marcondes said the backlash was a “wake-up call” for marketers like himself to be “very humble” amid controversy and during “times like this.”
“That’s what we’re doing, being very humble, and really reminding ourselves of what we should do best every day, which is to really understand our consumers. Which is to really celebrate and appreciate every consumer that loves our brands—but in a way that can make them be together, not apart,” Marcondes told a crowd at the festival.
But he stressed that Bud Light, which recently saw its sales drop to No. 2 behind Modelo Especial, will ultimately make a comeback.
Bud Light “exists to make beer easy to drink and easy to enjoy. That’s what we all, as a team, will be doing moving forward as a group,” the executive also said. “That’s what leaders do. Bud Light is coming back. It’s going all around the country, reconnecting with consumers, moving forward. That’s what you can expect from Bud Light in the U.S.”
According to the AdAge report, Marcondes made those comments while he was accepting an award for “Creative Marketer of the Year” at the Cannes Film Festival, located in the south of France. On social media, in response to the executive’s remarks, some prominent users called on consumers to continue to the boycott of the brand to send a message to other major corporations.
Industry data shows that Bud Light recently lost its top spot to Modelo Especial in the month of May. Modelo is owned by Constellation Brands within the U.S. after the Department of Justice in 2013 ordered Anhesuer-Busch to divest from the brand and hand it over to Constellation.
Beer analyst group Bump Williams said that actual dollar sales were also grim for Bud Light during the four-week period ending in early June, falling about 24.4 percent, while Modelo’s sales grew 12.2 percent in the same time period.
“Modelo Especial appears to be increasing its sales growth each week as we get deeper into summer,” Bump Williams told CNN last Wednesday, adding that other Modelo beers are performing well, too.
Several days ago, the CEO of Anheuser-Busch’s U.S. division, Brendan Whitworth, released another statement that appeared to be a reaction to the boycott. However, he did not apologize or make reference to the Mulvaney fracas.
“We recognize that over the last two months, the discussion surrounding our company and Bud Light has moved away from beer, and this has impacted our consumers, our business partners, and our employees,” Whitworth said in his statement late last week. “We are a beer company, and beer is for everyone.”
His company is taking “three important actions” to move Bud Light forward, he added, saying that Anheuser-Busch is now “investing to protect the jobs of our frontline employees,” providing some financial assistance to Bud Light wholesalers, and changing its overall advertisement strategy.
“Our summer advertising launches next week, and you can look forward to Bud Light reinforcing what you’ve always loved about our brand—that it’s easy to drink and easy to enjoy,” his company said. “As we move forward, we will focus on what we do best—brewing great beer and earning our place in moments that matter to you. Here’s to a future with more cheers.”
In response to the Anheuser-Busch statement, a group of Bud Light wholesalers told news outlets that it “greatly appreciates the support” being announced by Whitworth, asserting they have endured a “challenging” environment since the boycott started. “The support Anheuser-Busch announced today will help enable all of us to continue making a positive impact as we work tirelessly to bring our great beers to local bars, restaurants, and stores across this country. We are united and fully committed to moving forward together,” the group said.