Bud Light’s chief executive has accused “one” social media post about a transgender influencer of wiping billions from the company’s value.
Michel Doukeris, chief executive officer of the lager’s parent company, Anheuser-Busch, said “misinformation and confusion” on social media played a part in the debacle.
Bud Light came under fire from conservative activists and clients after it hooked up with Dylan Mulvaney, a transgender social media influencer with more than 10 million online followers.
Mulvaney, who documented her transition in a video series titled Days of Girlhood, shared a sponsored post for the beer brand on her Instagram account.
She filmed herself drinking from custom-made Bud Light cans that featured her own face.
A subsequent Conservative boycott was blamed for slashing the value of Anheuser-Busch by around $4 billion in a matter of days and reducing the beer’s sales volumes by a quarter.
Two Bud Light executives have been furloughed in the wake of the marketing disaster.
However, Mr Doukeris told the Financial Times that “misinformation and confusion” on the internet had led to customers misinterpreting Mulvaney’s personalized can as one produced for general sale rather than a one-off.
“We never intended to make it for general production and public sale,” he said.
Some also interpreted Mulvaney’s post as a bud light campaign. Mr Doukeris said: “It wasn’t that: it was a post. It wasn’t an ad.”
The CEO complained that there were even videos of billboards with images of the Bud Light can inserted “electronically” and viewed by 10 million people.
“It had nothing to do with Bud Light, it was like a pure social media creation,” he said.
He added: “You have a fact and each person puts an opinion behind the fact. And then the opinions quickly begin to repeat themselves on every single comment. By the time 10 or 20 people comment, reality isn’t fact anymore, it’s more [about] what the comments were.”
The consumer element in America’s culture war underscores the challenges faced by companies like Anheuser-Busch, which also owns some of the most well-known beer brands, from Stella Artois to Corona.
According to an analysis by Bump Williams Consulting, based on data from Nielsen IQ, Bud Light sales volumes for the week ended April 22, the latest available data, were down 26 percent from a year earlier.
But Mr. Doukeris said it was “too early” to predict what impact the drop in sales would have on the company’s full-year results.
According to the Financial Times, Anheuser-Busch’s first-quarter profit rose nearly 14 percent year over year, beating analysts’ expectations.
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