Should brands support social issues in their marketing?

Bud Light marketing vice president Alissa Heinerscheid has taken a leave of absence and is being replaced by Budweiser global marketing vice president Todd Allen. But Anheuser-Busch DENIES claims it fired two top marketing executives responsible for Bud Light’s disastrous Dylan Mulvaney campaign – and maintains the pair are on ‘leave of absence.’ Who is to blame?

The ill-fated campaign with the transgender social media star was a disaster. Still, in today’s corporate environment, one has to wonder just how many senior executives approved the campaign and are now trying to insulate themselves from the fallout.

There are two thoughts on social matters when it comes to brands. The first is to stay neutral because you’re in the business to make money, not make political or social statements. The second is to support social causes and risk losing market share with an audience that doesn’t agree with your stance. In the case of BudLight, the marketing VP should have known that their audience tends to be more conservative and blue-collar and would not support a campaign in favor of gay rights.

Last year, Oreo launched a rainbow Oreo cookie that didn’t disrupt their share, but the audience demographics are entirely different. Goya Beans still has not recovered from their CEO’s support of the far-right, yet Target recalled products with a rainbow theme.

So what is the right thing to do?

1ne: Your brand has a specific audience, and you need insights into your audience’s psychographics as much as possible.

2wo: Many social issues are dividing our country right now. Are you willing to risk sales to support a specific cause? It may be morally right, but today that means little.

3hree: If you, as a team, decide to launch a campaign in support of a social issue, be prepared to say, “we did it, and we’re not backing down.” Don’t panic and fire people, then say, “they’re on a leave of absence.”

In the case of BudLight, they should have known that their audience would not support the rainbow cause, but I also have a hard time believing that the campaign was not approved at the highest levels. BudLight’s stance right now is chickenshit. Instead, They would assign blame and throw money at distributors rather than explain their decision.

We live in unique time. A lot of social issues are causing a deep sense of anger that;s being applified on social media. Brands are owned by shareholders who want more and more and do not want to hear that you lost market share because you made a statement. Just sell your damn product and keep your social beliefs off the shelf.

About richmeyer

Rich is a passionate marketer who is able to quickly understand what turns a prospect into a customer. He challenges the status quo and always asks "what can we do better"? He knows how to take analytics and turn them into opportunities and he is a great communicator.

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