Marketing professors in the nation’s business schools will discuss the boycott of Bud Light, beginning on April 1, 2023, as an example of what not to do. The brand got into hot water with conservatives when they employed a man pretending to be a woman to promote its product. The reaction stunned the liberals, the company and the entire marketing profession by its quick and angry response.
A Growing Trend
“The reality is increasingly there is a red market and a blue market. Ultimately here the subtext is America is a pretty divided country.”
Before the controversy, Bud Light was the best-selling product in a highly competitive marketplace. It was a kind of “default beverage” for millions.
The Bud Light Controversy
When the transsexual Dylan Mulvaney released a video promoting the beer, millions of customers quickly abandoned the brand because they wanted no part of the rapidly expanding “woke” ideology.
The economic effects were immediate. According to the business journal Forbes, “Bud Light’s parent company Anheuser-Busch announced earlier this month its U.S. revenue dropped 10.5% in the second quarter of 2023.” It continued, “Modelo surpassed Bud Light as the best-selling beer in the U.S. in 2023.” The reaction did not stop in the beverage aisle. “The Bud Light boycott was among the first of many instances this year in which companies deemed ‘woke’ were targeted by right-wing social media users and commentators: Companies like Target and Kohl’s came under fire for selling Pride merchandise, and Nike and Adidas faced backlash for trans-inclusive marketing.”
However, many liberals still do not understand that this situation resulted from uncoordinated grass-roots actions by millions of consumers. Time Magazine commented, “After Bud Light released an actual sponsored ad with Mulvaney…prominent conservatives engineered a boycott in retaliation.” (Emphasis added.)
“Chick-fil-A Day” Rivets a Nation’s Attention
This is not the first time the culture war has triggered massive grassroots reactions. Another fundamental demarcation point remembered in marketing history was August 1, 2012, known at the time as “Chick-fil-A Day.” When pro-homosexual activists tried to boycott the chain over donations to certain charities by the firm’s owners, more conservative Americans rose en masse to support the company.
Word of the reaction spread without any organization. Friends used the Internet to tell other friends in distant places to patronize the restaurants on that day, and those friends responded. Lines of customers, some of them hours long, formed at locations nationwide. Even international news outlets like Great Britain’s very liberal The Guardian reported the phenomenon.
Politics as a Marketing Tool
These reactions shows that companies that adopt “woke” politics often stand to lose money. The “red market” can be highly profitable since people can be convinced to buy in accordance with their moral values.
In the aforementioned article, Time documents the growth of this growing anti-woke sector of the economy.
“In recent years, there has been an explosion of business ventures that position themselves as right-wing alternatives to mainstream products.” They list coffee retailer Black Rifle, an anti-ESG investment platform called Strive, America First Healthcare, Donald Trump’s “Truth Social” media platform, and crypto promoter MAGA Coin. “Many of these firms are drawing investments from A-list venture capitalists and private equity groups…a sign that a growing segment of the business community recognizes the potential for making money in the MAGA marketplace.”
Recently, NBC News noted that Epoch Times was exporting right-wing sentiments into the world of print journalism. Remarkably, in a “dying” industry, the new entry is making quite a success of it.
“Funded through aggressive online and real-world marketing campaigns and big-money conservative donors, The Epoch Times now boasts to be the country’s fourth-largest newspaper by subscriber count. The nonprofit has amassed a fortune, growing its revenue by a staggering 685% in two years, to $122 million in 2021, according to the group’s most recent tax records.”
On the other hand, some very small players in this space are getting together to sell using the anti-woke label. Some 65,000 small companies market their wares on an Internet platform called “PublicSq.” They are proud to manifest their anti-woke sentiments. The platform proclaims its values in five statements sure to warm the hearts of most conservatives.
- We are united in our commitment to freedom and truth—that’s what makes us Americans.
- We will always protect the family unit and celebrate the sanctity of every life.
- We believe small businesses and the communities who support them are the backbone of our economy.
- We believe in the greatness of this nation and will always fight to defend it.
- Our Constitution is non-negotiable—government isn’t the source of our rights, so it can’t take them away.
Breaking the Myth
This this newfound expression of economic power in the lower echelons of the right wing is encouraging. It breaks the myth that only woke companies will prosper.
The rise of the anti-woke company shows that those proudly proclaim their values can even expect some return on their moral investment.
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