Why are some brands able to integrate consumer values into their philosophy in a way that feels authentic, while others miss the mark? Why do some forge a strong bond with their consumers and some seem to take shots in the dark, hoping to jump on a trending social media moment — yet it falls short. The difference is utilizing comprehensive, real-time data from Resonate’s AI-powered engine, rAI, to forge an authentic connection with your audience rather than relying on a hunch or a hashtag.
To take a deeper look at what that means, we’re going to examine one of the biggest brand missteps of 2023: the Bud Light-Dylan Mulvaney campaign. For those who missed the hubbub, Mulvaney is a theater star turned TikTok star who transitioned to female. Her following on TikTok is huge, and Bud Light saw an opportunity for a progressive partnership around March Madness. Mulvaney dressed up as the ubiquitous Holly Golightly to promote a Bud Light giveaway.
Bud Light was onto something by launching a March Madness campaign — their audience is 75% more likely to watch March Madness. But that was the only place they got this right.
There was immediate outrage about the campaign from conservatives and celebrities including Kid Rock to Travis Tritt. Consumers claimed they would boycott Bud Light for working with a trans celebrity on a marketing campaign. Was most of the reaction a few loud voices blowing smoke? Probably. But that doesn’t mean this campaign made sense for Bud Light’s audience. Their intention may have been in the right place, but aligning with a trending figure doesn’t mean a message will be a home run. It has to make sense for the actual brand loyalists.
Let’s take a look at the freshest data from the Resonate Platform on people who’ve sipped on Bud Light in the last three months. There are five clear reasons why Bud Light’s marketing team could have seen this campaign as a misstep — and these are five ways you can avoid a similar misstep.
Look at Who Your Audience Is
Regardless of how they feel about trans rights, Bud Light’s audience does not have a significant contingent that identifies as transgender. Bud Light drinkers are actually 58% less likely than the average American consumer to identify as transgender. While that doesn’t mean they aren’t a fan of Dylan Mulvaney, a transgender icon may not be top of mind for them. Choosing someone who is more directly aligned with their identity or peer group would have made more sense.
Plus, Bud Light’s customer base is likely to fall into Gen Z, which is Mulvaney’s primary audience.
Understand Your Audience’s Values
Bud Light drinks are less likely than the average consumer to consider equality one of their top values. That doesn’t mean they don’t value equality, but it’s not something that drives their daily actions and decision making. This wasn’t the right audience to align with an underrepresented audience in the hopes of striking a chord.
Know the Issues Your Audience Cares About
Bud Light drinkers are less likely to be more likely (stick with us here!) to purchase a product if it supports advocacy for both LGBTQ rights and transgender rights. They’re just 5-6% more likely than the average consumer, which isn’t a significant difference, but it’s enough that Bud Light should have realized they weren’t going to feel enthusiastic about rushing to the store to buy a product that was endorsed by a transgender celebrity.
They Are Likely to Oppose Legislation Supporting LGBTQ+ Rights
Agree or disagree with their stance, a marketing campaign isn’t going to be the way to get through to an audience that is 61% more likely to oppose legislation passing LGBTQ+ rights.
But, Most Importantly, They Don’t Care About Influencers
Despite all the reasons a Bud Light audience clearly wasn’t going to resonate with the Dylan Mulvaney campaign, perhaps the most clear is that they don’t care about influencers. They’re 26% less likely than the average recommendation to buy a product based on influencer recommendations. If they even knew who Dylan Mulvaney is — which it’s not likely they do — they’re not going to care about buying a product based on her endorsement.
While a brand’s marketing team may have strong feelings about where they want their customer base to identify on political or social issues, their job is to sell products. They don’t have to go against their personal beliefs, but they can choose to work with influencers or launch marketing campaigns based on what does align with their audience. Bud Light could have avoided this marketing blunder by looking at a few simple data points on their customers and realizing that a Dylan Mulvaney partnership didn’t align with this particular customer base.
Learn more about the current state of consumer and how we used the power of AI to identify and segment key audiences to predict what’s in store for 2024. Read the full 2024 State of the Consumer report, to see how deep, fresh data can prevent you from making a marketing misstep.