hard to overstate the marketing catastrophe of Bud Light’s
decision to collaborate with Audrey Hepburn impersonator Dylan
Mulvaney. It should be studied as a worst-case scenario in
business schools for generations.
in recent marketing history compares to this epic fail or
better illustrates how presumptuous, alienating, insincere
and bad for business woke capitalism can be.
Mulvaney reached the “365 Days of Girlhood” milestone.
To help celebrate, Bud Light sent over some custom Dylan Mulvaney
cans, the influencer shared the moment on TikTok and the rest
is history. Rather, Bud Light became history. Within a few
weeks, the beer dropped out of Top Ten Beers served in the
US, cost its parent company Anheuser Busch $30 billion in
market cap, began selling for less than bottled water, was
‘black-starred’ by Costco, meaning once current
supplies are gone, they won’t be replenished.
marketing VP Alissa Heinerscheid explained the decision in
a podcast by saying the quiet part (about Bud Light customers)
out loud: “We had this hangover, I mean Bud Light had
been kind of a brand of fratty, kind of out-of-touch humour,”
that’s what we are to you, replied Bud Light’s
ex-customers, just a pack of uncultured, unrefined mouthbreathers,
like John Belushi in Animal House?
Light assumed it would all blow over.
it did not blow over.
Twitter hailstorm of hostility and loathing continued while
Anheuser Busch pretended there was no backlash. It then tried
to stanch the self-inflicted wound with a series of missteps
that soon resembled a Mr. Bean segment in which the clueless
dolt turns the most ordinary situation into a moment of excruciating
there was the beermaker’s refusal to apologize. Then
there was a ChatGPT-generated non-apology followed by a return
to the 90s-era campaigns that had once proved so successful.
Instead of ‘we’re sorry’ it was ‘release
Light now finds itself in red alert territory—the point
at which your once devoted demo begins to pity you. Anheuser
Busch CEO actually pled with customers to end the punishment
and think of the workers.
simple words would have solved all of this: “we are
sorry.” But Anheuser Busch is like the clueless ex who
cheated and now begs you to come back while denying he did
anything wrong. He’s showing up at the bar where you
hang out, reaching out to your friends and generally behaving
like an annoying stalker, refusing to get the message: it’s
corporate messaging appears to be on the same trajectory as
a fly buzzing around the room: Imperceptible at first then
irritating to the point of intolerable followed by ‘it
must die at all cost.’
US Independence Day, while ordinary folk celebrated with barbecues
and fireworks mishaps, Ben & Jerry’s was busy tweeting
about America’s wickedness.
Conservative Twitter, which hates lectures from crunchy granola
Vermont billionaires in Birkenstocks, responded with loud
boos and promises to boycott. Ordinary apolitical types who
prefer ice cream without a topping of guilt and shame weren’t
all that impressed either.
backlash led to an immediate $2 billion loss in parent company
Unilever’s market cap. That was nothing to worry about.
Like all social media eruptions, this one would die down or
be replaced by a fresh new indignation. Instead, the rent
came due on Ben & Jerry’s virtue signal.
As Nelson Muntz from the Simpsons would say . . . Ha-Ha.
media fury instantly turned to mockery. “Your move Ben
& Jerry’s!” said Twitter. Also: “Go
on! Be the change you want to see in the world!” and
“can’t go back on your promise now. That would
be a certain type of giving.”
was an embarrassing moment for the ice cream makers. It also
raised an inconvenient question about land acknowledgements
in general. Namely, if you acknowledge it’s their land,
should you not give it back? In this clip, Baroness Von Sketch
wonders just that. Even Indigenous people are exasperated
by the ritual.
similar controversy brewed around Land O Lakes butter after
it removed the iconic logo of an Indigenous woman from its
packaging. The issue came down to a common misperception among
radical progressives: that minorities like First Nations are
a monolith. There were those happy to see the butter maid
go. Others questioned why, since the illustration was the
paid work of Ojibwa artist Patrick DesJarlaits who redesigned
the Land O Lakes artwork in the 1950s. The redesign went forward
nonetheless, giving birth to this viral meme.
In other words, land acknowledgements risk being construed
as a kind of flex. As Aeon editor Sam Haselby described
it, “there’s no power move quite like the power
move of the people with all the land and money displaying
their moral superiority by lecturing you on how they stole
brands pick sides, nobody wins
worst thing about woke capitalism is how it opens brands up
to sophomoric tribalism. There’s a certain irony in
the way inclusivity divides people.
unaware of this irony, Son de Flor aimed for ‘inclusivity’
and unintentionally pissed off the better part of its fan
Swedish maker of modest linen dresses recently collaborated
with gender-fluid influencer David Ross Lawn.
The Son de Flor faithful—which consists of a lot of
Christian and Orthodox Jewish home-schooling moms of six—were
not delighted by the sight of a grown man larping as Laura
Ingalls. The dressmaker immediately lost 2,500 Instagram followers
and sustained a tsunami of Instagram venom.
peacetime, the people bothered by this collaboration would
have shrugged at a dude prancing around like Maria in West
Side Story. But there’s a culture war raging and
their side feels under siege. They see OG norms vanishing
while lewdness and fetish normalization creep ever closer,
like the overflow of a backed up toilet. Internet porn blockers
are pointless when there’s pot-bellied, graying middle-aged
‘bears’ in translucent y-fronts twerking at Pride
parades and Sam Smith simulating butt sex at an all ages concert.
de Flor reacted like a deer caught in the headlights. Its
initial response was we meant no offense, which quickly evolved
into: we’re inclusive over here and if you’re
offended, maybe you should buy your flowy sage-green linen
dresses and detachable embroidered collars elsewhere.
Fine. It’s a free country and a free market. But who
does that leave besides gender activists cheering from the
sidelines, not many of whom go in for the Trad wife look.
Maybe there’s a niche market that likes to cross-dress
as the poor cousin in a Jane Austen adaptation? I don’t
know much about these things other than . . . that’s
a very specific kink.