Bud Light’s Demise at the Hands of Credentialed Woke Millennials

Early in my professional career, an experienced colleague shared with me a bit of advice. 

“If you sell people what they want to buy,” he said, “you’ll have a very successful career.  If you sell people what you think they want to buy, you might still be successful.  But if you sell people what you want to sell them, you’ll fail miserably.”

It was a free lesson, learned in moments, that was proven true countlessly in nearly two decades of sales and sales management.  It is the golden rule in business, for which there are no exceptions or substitutes, and it can be summed up in three short words: know your customer.

Yet this lesson apparently isn’t taught at The Wharton School of Finance, where Bud Light marketing VP Alissa Heinerscheid earned a Master of Business Administration degree, and where tuition and supplies alone will run you $250K for its two-year MBA program. 

Under her leadership and direction, the brand has been irreparably destroyed for the simple reason that she believed herself to have a mandate to sell the customers what she wanted to sell them rather than give them what they would want to buy.  Video captures her explaining:

So, I had this super clear mandate. It’s like we need to evolve and elevate this incredibly iconic brand.  What does evolve and elevate mean?  It means inclusivity. It means shifting the tone. It means having a campaign that’s truly inclusive and feels lighter and brighter and different.  And appeals to women and men.  And representation is sort of at the heart of evolution. I mean, Bud Light has been a brand of kind of fratty, kind of out of touch humor, and it was really important that we had another approach.

That’s a lot of woke buzzwords and abstract gobbledygook that also manages to insult a large segment of Bud Light’s core customer base.  This “other approach” turned out to include a marketing partnership with Dylan Mulvaney, a man who puts on an offensive act caricaturizing a woman.  And since a groveling apology will not be forthcoming, we can rest assured that Bud Light will never again own the market share it once enjoyed. 

Interestingly enough, there is an actually successful Bud Light campaign which perfectly mirrors the recent Mulvaney campaign that destroyed the brand.  What drove that campaign was a precisely opposite approach.

Just a few years ago, you may recall that a previous marketing team for Bud Light captured lightning in a bottle with its “Dilly-Dilly” campaign.  A stroke of marketing genius, it made use of the medieval European appeal of the wildly popular Game of Thrones series while having a light air of ridiculousness that was not only funny but managed to jab at its hipster competition.  The very first ad showed a king pleased to receive large quantities of Bud Light from his subjects, but a daintier subject who presents the king with a single bottle of “spiced honey mead wine” that he’s “really been into lately” earns him a trip to the “Pit of Despair.” 


This greatly pleases crowd at the banquet who enjoy a celebratory toast, “Dilly-Dilly!” 

Miguel Patricio was the Chief Marketing Officer for Anheuser-Busch InBev at the time.  When asked what “Dilly Dilly” meant, and why the ad was so successful, he said:

“Dilly Dilly” doesn’t mean anything.  That’s the beauty of it.  I think that we all need our moments of nonsense and fun… 

To tell you the truth, we never expected this to be so successful.  It didn’t test that well.  We did that ad, actually, because of – the new season of “Game of Thrones” coming, but when we tested, it didn’t test that well.  We said, “Consumers will get it.”

Dilly-Dilly became a marketing sensation, and “cultural currency” for the brand, says Patricio, leading to advertising spots for the NFL, March Madness, and even a bilingual campaign around the 2018 World Cup in Russia. 

Here is the complete set of Dilly Dilly commercials:

And he believed that customers would “get it” for the simple fact that he knew his customer.  Who drinks Bud Light, after all?  People who want cheap, plentiful beer that can be drunk over the course of multi-hour parties, barbecues, and sporting events.  These are the kind of beer drinkers in middle America who would indeed look with derision at the bougie hipster who rolls up with a four-pack of a double-hazy-citrus-infused-IPA that cost $14, and they would have at once proudly opened their cooler filled to the brim with ice-cold Bud Light and cracked a cold one right in front of him. 

Patricio’s marketing team looked at the research and banked on the customer that he knew.  Heinerscheid’s marketing team despises the customer that she knows, and relied upon the research.  The results speak for themselves.

To be fair to Alissa Heinershceid, it appears that she wasn’t the ultimate architect of the ill-advised Mulvaney campaign, though she clearly set the moral and business imperatives such that any low-level marketing peon would see the Mulvaney partnership as fulfillment of her clear directives.  In fact, the Daily Mail reports that Heinerscheid was a registered Republican as of 2016, so she may not actually be all that woke.

But none of that is the point.  The point is that coddled and credentialed millennials like Heinerscheid have exited college from prestigious universities without the slightest understanding of how American business works or what is required for growth. 

This would be less a problem if American corporations didn’t hire based upon the credentials earned at institutions that confer little to no practical knowledge of what is required for businesses to be successful.  A college professor at Harvard Business School would presume, I’m sure, to know more about business than a small business owner who pays a CPA for assistance in managing his life’s dream to serve customers what they want at his deli.  But that professor doesn’t have to live with the potential ramifications of failing to meet customer expectations like the deli owner and his family do.  With the aegis of tenure protecting him, the Harvard professor is not at risk of losing his livelihood as the deli owner is -- and that is all the difference. 

Entitled, credentialed professors at woke-infected universities are churning out entitled, credentialed, woke-infected young people into the workforce of American corporations. But these young people, like their professors in many cases, have never actually produced any wealth in the private sector, and they likewise know nothing of the requirements of success in the world that they’re expected to lead.

Either that changes and we return to the economic dynamism of our recent past, or we will continue in our trajectory into this obvious, and potentially fatal, economic decline which has accelerated in these past few years, and which is symbolically represented by the physical decline of frail, doddering Joe Biden who is unfortunately accelerating into the depths of senility.

Photo credit: YouTube screengrab

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