Bud Light’s chief executive has blamed “one” social media post about a transgender influencer for wiping billions off the company’s value.
Michel Doukeris, the chief executive of the light beer’s parent company Anheuser-Busch, said “misinformation and confusion” on social media had played a role in the debacle.
Bud Light came under fire from conservative activists and customers after it partnered with Dylan Mulvaney, a transgender social media influencer with more than 10 million online followers.
Mulvaney, who has documented her transition in a video series called “Days of Girlhood”, shared a sponsored post for the beer brand on her Instagram account.
She filmed herself drinking from customised Bud Light cans with her own face depicted on them.
An ensuing boycott by conservatives was blamed for wiping around $4 billion off Anheuser-Busch’s value within days and sales volumes of the beer dropping by a quarter.
Two Bud Light executives were placed on leave in the wake of the marketing calamity.
However, Mr Doukeris told the Financial Times that online “misinformation and confusion” had led to customers interpreting Mulvaney’s personalised can as one that was in production for general sale, rather than a one-off.
“We never intended to make it for general production and sale for the public,” he said.
Some also interpreted Mulvaney’s post as a Bud Light campaign. Mr Doukeris said: “It was not: it was one post. It was not an advertisement.”
The chief executive complained that there were even videos of billboards with images of the Bud Light can inserted “electronically” which were watched by 10 million people.
“That had nothing to do with Bud Light, it was just like pure social media creation,” he said.
He added: “You have one fact and every person puts an opinion behind the fact. And then the opinions start to be replicated fast on each and every comment. By the time that 10 or 20 people put a comment out there, the reality is no longer what the fact is, but is more [about] what the comments were.”
The consumer element to America’s culture wars underscores the challenges faced by companies like Anheuser-Busch, which also owns some of the best known beer brands, from Stella Artois to Corona.
Bud Light sales volumes for the week ending April 22, the most recent data available, dropped 26 per cent from a year ago, according to an analysis by Bump Williams Consulting based on Nielsen IQ data.
However, Mr Doukeris said it was “too early” to tell what impact the drop in sales would have on the company’s bottom line for the full year.
According to the Financial Times, Anheuser-Busch’s first-quarter profits rose almost 14 per cent against a year earlier, beating analysts’ expectations.
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