Can a coat of camouflage cover what has been denounced as wokeness within?
Anheuser-Busch is betting on it, according to the New York Post.
In a report based on what the Post called “sources briefed on the situation,” company officials met with distributors last week in St. Louis and rolled out some ideas for dealing with the weeks-long boycott that began when Bud Light partnered with transgender influencer Dylan Mulvaney.
A distributor who did not want to be identified indicated that Anheuser-Busch, which got in trouble with customers over the design of a beer can — one with Mulvaney’s smiling face — is hoping the same strategy, with a different appearance, will get the company out of it.
Anheuser-Busch will produce aluminum bottles of Budweiser and Bud Light with a camouflage print, the Post reported Tuesday.
The bottles also will have images of the “Folds of Honor” program, which gives out scholarships to family members of fallen and disabled service members and first responders.
The reported move calls to mind a campaign by rival Yuengling — the oldest brewery in America — to produce camo cans in support of Team Red, White & Blue, a nonprofit dedicated to veterans’ health.
— Yuengling Brewery (@yuenglingbeer) May 8, 2023
Bud Light sales have tumbled since the brand’s partnership with Mulvaney got attention on social media. The trans activist said on Instagram that the company sent him the can with his face on it to celebrate his “day 365 of womanhood.”
The Post reported that for the week ending May 6, Bud Light sales were down 23.6 percent over a year ago, up a hair from the 23.3 percent decline of the week before, according to data provided by Bump Williams Consulting and NielsenIQ.
Unless Bud Light rejects the woke agenda and embraces traditional American values, it doesn’t matter what pandering art they place on the can. You can camouflage the can, but you can’t camouflage your intentions.
— Thomas Kemmett🇺🇲 (@ThomasKemmett) May 17, 2023
“I don’t think the declines in sales/volume will get any worse, but I do think their negative volume trends will continue,” the analyst said.
He said that the full impact of the boycott going forward will become clear over Memorial Day weekend and the summer, when sales are hot.
Bud light cans in camouflage will only make their product even more invisible.
— GERONIMO (@WestoftheS) May 17, 2023
In an Op-Ed for Fox News on Tuesday, Anson Frericks, co-founder of Strive Asset Management and a former Anheuser-Busch executive, said he expects the boycott’s fury is not spent.
“Conventional wisdom holds that controversies blow over, news cycles cycle, and noisy protestors eventually quiet down,” he wrote.
However, Frericks said, “All signs indicate that the Bud Light controversy isn’t going away. Why not?”
For one, he noted, beer boycotters — for whom there is little cost in changing which brand they buy — can see the impact of their work in sales figures.
Do you think this move will help the company?
Beyond that, Frericks said, the message being sent is that beer and politics are separate worlds and one should not be poured into the other.
He wrote that “for every Kid Rock shooting bullets into Bud Light cans on Tik Tok or gay bar loudly dumping the brand for not being LGBT-friendly enough, there are hundreds if not thousands of Americans who just don’t want their choice in beer to be political — not pro-trans, not anti-trans, not any-trans.”
Frericks said Americans have soured on what companies thought would be feel-good social activism as a way to woo consumers.
“The Bud Light controversy is therefore more than the latest flash point in the culture wars,” he wrote. “It is part of a larger cultural shift.
“In 2020 and 2021, much of corporate America saw advocating for social issues as an easy way to score points with customers.”
“Now, the tide has turned,” Frericks said. “A poll conducted earlier this year shows that 68% of Americans think that companies that speak out on social issues do it as a marketing ploy. And a study out earlier this month shows that Americans are much more likely to distrust institutions they view as politicized — even when they take political positions that align with their views.”
He said that neither conservative nor liberal should a beer brand be.
“To correct course, Anheuser-Busch must publicly commit to staying out of political issues moving forward. Anheuser-Busch may have had to learn this lesson the hard way, but for other companies, the lesson should be much easier to swallow,” Frericks wrote.