Bud Light’s woke rebranding to be the beer for pantomime ladies like Dylan Mulvaney, and their allies, will likely work, regardless of how many times we sane people tell ourselves, “Get awake, go broke.”
For an example, take a look at late-night television. We are decades away from Johnny Carson’s universal appeal, and complete dominance of TV’s small hours. Carson was a comedian, but he also made political jokes. He made fun of both sides, but he never revealed his political views. Carson laughed at the foibles of politicians — that’s why he was in such a target-rich setting — as well as his own.
Here is Johnny, starting with a joke about Ronald Reagan’s age and affinity to the camera. But quickly, he starts to make fun of himself as well as his show.
Carson did not take sides on policy or indulge in Two Minutes Hate, which was thinly disguised comedy.
It’s not hard to see why progressive schlockmeisters such as Jimmy Kimmel and Stephen Colbert now dominate late-night television: there’s less to do. On average, Carson draws 9 million viewers per night. Kimmel and Colbert are both lucky to draw 2,000,000 viewers each, but that’s a lot of people.
There is still money to be made by singing to the choir. Although late-night TV may not be as popular as it used to, it still draws a predictable audience who know what they want and are willing to listen to cynical hosts. Late-night TV is almost as woken as anything, but it’s not going broke.
This brings us back to Bud Light.
Alissa Henderscheid was appointed Bud Light’s vice president of marketing in 2013. She had a “super-clear mandate,” according to her, to “evolve the brand and elevate it with a campaign that’s truly integrated.” However, Mulvaney’s hiring as a spokesperson is divisive. This was evident by the spontaneous and widespread boycotts against Bud Light.
Bud Light, however, is “a brand that’s in decline,” she said, and “been in decline really long.”
In an interview via online video, she stated that “there won’t be a future for Bud Light if we don’t attract young drinkers to drink this brand.”
Heinerscheid’s danger is that her superiors at AB InBev may panic and hire someone to return Bud Light branding back to its original Frat Boy/Sorority Girl audience. I applaud this move, even though I hate corporate America’s Gleichschaltung mentality. If the silence on the corporate social media accounts of Corporate Headquarters is any indication, it might be considering doing so.
Although it pains me to admit it, Heinerscheid is probably an expert in her field, even though she appears to have retreated from hiring Mulvaney. She was quick to point out that Mulvaney’s “commemorative container” was not for sale and was meant to be a gift to mark a personal milestone.
She is correct that Bud Light’s branding cannot continue as it was before, even though she cannot publicly explain why. Bud Light won’t be the same powerhouse it was once, and that’s because it isn’t good beer. Americans have moved away from bland mass-produced beers to enjoy local-made beers with more personality and better quality. Microbrewing has allowed the beer market to split into thousands of smaller pieces that mass brewers like Anheuser-Busch cannot control the way they used to. This is similar to how cable TV fragmented television audiences in the 1980s and 1990s.
Heinerscheid’s job doesn’t involve restoring the brand’s former glory. This is because, unlike the past when one man could control late-night TV, Bud Light has lost its glory days. Like Kimmel and Colbert, her distasteful job it to find that niche and cater to it.