When Marketing Goes Wrong: A Marketing Campaign Deep Dive Into Bud Light

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When marketing goes wrong, it can be disastrous. So, what went wrong with Bud Light’s disastrous March 2023 social media marketing campaign? Let’s deep dive in marketing rebranding gone wrong.

What went wrong

The social campaign (which for clarification was one sponsored social post) in March with influencer Dylon Mulvaney was meant to expand the brand to that new and younger audience.

Yet in trying to reach a new, untapped audience, it ended up alienating its core money-spending audience. While some consumers praised the ad for its message of inclusivity, while others criticised it for being too political. The backlash led Bud Light to pull the ad from social media.

The Bud Light ad backlash highlights the complexity of mass marketing in today’s world. Brands are increasingly trying to appeal to a diverse audience, but they often find themselves walking a fine line between being inclusive and being offensive.

In the case of the Bud Light ad, the company may have misjudged the reaction of some consumers. The ad was intended to be a celebration of diversity, but it ended up alienating its core audience.

This is a reminder that brands need to be careful when they use humour or social commentary in their marketing campaigns. What might seem funny or harmless to one person could be offensive to another.

However, the flip side of not trying new campaigns at all could also be risky.

“There is always a risk for any business that tries something new, but if they didn’t try, then they’d probably be criticised for being old and stale,” said brand market expert and social media pundit Scott Steinberg. “In this case, Bud Light didn’t understand how that influencer campaign would be received by their established audience—and it was simply too much, too soon.”

Of course, that influencer campaign only occurred because of the reach of social media, but it is also why the backlash was likely so strong.

“Everything is amplified on social media,” said Steinberg. “It really doesn’t take that much for something to go viral—for good and bad. But Bud Light may have gone too far and then reacted too swiftly when it received the pushback. Sometimes a lighter touch is what you need to do.”

To make things worse, they backtracked on their commitment to the influencer post, which only added fuel to the fire by then alienating their potential new audience as well. They were targeting a demographic that stands very firmly in their morals. By backtracking on their commitment to this group, they felt like the campaign was disingenuous in the beginning. It managed to attract no one and lose everyone.

So what are they doing to manage the damage?

Instead of laying low and letting people forget, they have instead opted to push out more marketing campaigns, most likely as a response to shareholder dissatisfaction at falling stock prices, to reset their brand image. While this is a bold move, only time will tell how successful going on the offensive will be.

This incident is a reminder that there is no easy answer when it comes to mass marketing in the 21st century. Brands need to walk a fine line between being inclusive and progressive, and not alienating their core customers. It’s a delicate balancing act, and one that brands will continue to grapple with in the years to come.

How to learn from Bud’s mistake

We would never suggest not trying anything new, however, there are some key points to consider when trialling a new campaign to set it up for success. Here are some other things to keep in mind when marketing to a diverse audience:

  • Understand, and show you care about your main audience: Brands need to be sensitive to the needs and values of their target audience, and they need to be careful about how they use humour and social commentary in their marketing campaigns.
  • The backlash is a reminder that there is no one-size-fits-all approach to mass marketing: Brands need to tailor their marketing campaigns to their target audience.
  • Do your research: Before you launch any marketing campaign, it’s important to do your research and understand the demographics of your target audience. This will help you to ensure that your messaging is relevant and inclusive.
  • Be authentic: Don’t try to be something you’re not. If you’re not genuinely committed to diversity and inclusion, your customers will see right through it.
  • Be respectful: Avoid using stereotypes or offensive language.
  • Be open to feedback: Listen to your customers and be willing to make changes if necessary.

As an expert branding and marketing agency, running for over 23 years, we have seen markets shift and change throughout the years. If you feel like you need to re-brand (successfully!), then getting in touch with Brave’s specialist branding team can help to reinvigorate your brand.

When marketing goes wrong, it can be disastrous. So, what went wrong with Bud Light’s disastrous March 2023 social media marketing campaign? Let’s deep dive in marketing rebranding gone wrong.

Written bySiobhan

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