Unless you have been living under a rock for the last few weeks, you can’t have failed to notice the furore over Budweiser’s foray into America’s red hot, unforgiving, and high-stakes culture war.
Having decided to signal its commitment to a variety of social issues and civic concerns, the company enlisted the help of Dylan Mulvaney, a popular transgender personality who found fame on TikTok and other new media platforms.
However, things didn’t go to plan, and a widespread boycott of the business swiftly ensued. Led by those who would disagree with Budweiser’s decision to engage in what they viewed as politically charged messaging, the action aptly demonstrated the risks associated with brands taking public stances on contentious social issues.
That said, Dylan Mulvaney’s involvement in the campaign was a bold move by Budweiser, whose efforts to reach a more diverse and culturally-engaged audience seemed, on the face of it, relatively benign. Likewise, Mulvaney was chosen to help bridge the gap between the brand and younger generations, despite the backlash from a segment of its existing base proving to be more impactful than anticipated.
Consequently, outraged customers flocked to the internet to voice their discontent, initiating hashtags that rapidly went viral, giving rise to an unfavorable wave of publicity for the firm.
But the reprisals were not confined to digital criticism alone. They spilled over into the physical retail space, too, with shop owners witnessing a significant drop in Budweiser purchases. Some bars even removed its products from their shelves, bowing to customer complaints and petitions.
The immediate and harsh pecuniary ramifications for Budweiser illustrated the peril of aligning a brand’s sociopolitical stance with views that conflict with those of a considerable segment of its customers.
As a result, the financial impact on Budweiser was immediate and severe, with some reports suggesting that the corporation saw a year-on-year decline in sales volume of 30.3% for the week ending June 10.
Will Budweiser stock recover? Analysts have a $70.84 price target on BUD right now, which translates to 39.6% upside from current share price levels.
Are they too optimistic?
Will BUD Stock Go Down More?
It doesn’t require a brilliant mind to deduce why employing a non-binary celebrity to promote a beer company was likely an ill-advised notion. But outside of forensically examining the mechanics of the catastrophe, there’s a bitter reality at play.
Simply put, not only has Budweiser ruined its brand reputation, but it might have destroyed its future as a viable business too.
In fact, it’s worth recognizing the words of Kevin O’Leary when questioned about Budweiser’s recent missteps on Fox News. Pushing back against Mark Cuban’s assertion that “going ‘woke’ is just ‘good business’,” the Canadian entrepreneur countered that idea by stating that Anheuser-Busch’s predicament was “unprecedented in the beer industry” and that companies shouldn’t provoke their patrons if it’s in any way avoidable.
But is he right? And if he is, what’s next for the beleaguered drinks manufacturer?
Beer is a Commodity; the Only Difference is Brand
In the wake of this upheaval, Budweiser’s route forward appears laden with potential pitfalls.
Indeed, if O’Leary is to be believed, beer is, at its essence, nothing but a simple commodity.
For example, beer factories worldwide provide customers with a wide array of choices featuring comparable components, tastes, and alcoholic strength. Hence, it’s not the product’s physical attributes that create differentiation but rather the intangible power of the brand.
In this realm of internecine competition, Budweiser must now strive not only to recover its revenue figures but, more importantly, to reconstruct its unique identity and distinctive position within the saturated beer market.
However, the company’s confronting a dual challenge in this endeavor.
On the one hand, it needs to mend bridges with its existing clientele, rebuilding the trust that suffered a hit due to the recent controversy. On the other hand, it is charged with resonating with a new, younger, and socially aware generation of consumers who hold brands accountable for their sociopolitical stances. Striking this equilibrium is no easy task; it’s a difficult balancing act that will inevitably set the course for this renowned brand’s future.
But Budweiser’s trials and tribulations underscore a vital lesson for corporations across all sectors: the power of the brand is both an asset and a responsibility.
While social consciousness is an increasingly integral element of brand identity, companies must navigate this territory with caution. They should consider the possible repercussions before plunging headlong into emotionally charged cultural or political discussions.
And although the primary intention might be to cultivate inclusivity and reflect a brand’s social responsibility, the outcome could inadvertently damage its image and market performance – as evidenced by Budweiser’s recent experience. Therefore, careful management becomes paramount in a world where beer is a commodity, and the brand reigns supreme.
In the face of this crisis, Budweiser was quick to respond. Insisting that its intention was never “to be part of a discussion that divides people,” the company expressed its sentiments with a concise, heartfelt message: “To all our valued consumers, we hear you.“
This response exemplifies the delicate dance it must perform when addressing sensitive social issues. A quality brand isn’t merely a purveyor of goods or services but an entity that listens, understands, and respects the voices of its customers.
Looking ahead, Budweiser needs to repair its tarnished image, guarantee its communication resonates with customers, and uphold its dedication to societal anxieties – all while maneuvering through an ever more complex and divided environment.
Nevertheless, one thing remains clear: this will act as a pivotal teaching moment for Budweiser and other brands, emphasizing the significance of comprehending and valuing the varied viewpoints of their consumers.
The author has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. Financhill has a disclosure policy. This post may contain affiliate links or links from our sponsors.