For the past several months, we’ve been witnessing the dramatic downfall of Bud Light. It all began on April 1, 2023, when the leading beer brand in the nation announced its partnership with Dylan Mulvaney. What followed over the next three months was a corporate disaster that is destined to become a legendary case of missteps. Anheuser-Busch, the parent company, faced the consequences, engaging in product buybacks and compensating their sales force in an attempt to salvage their teams.
The demise of Bud Light was not merely the result of one poor decision. This iconic beer, which held the title of America’s best-selling beer for decades, suffered a substantial decline in sales and popularity. The situation escalated when an interview video featuring the brand’s Vice President, Alissa Heinerscheid, was leaked. Her condescending remarks about customers being “fratty” and in need of attitude adjustments acted as a catalyst, prompting customers to abandon Bud Light without hesitation. The aftermath was a spiraling catastrophe for the brewery.
An undeniable gap existed between the initial crisis and the company’s response. There was no genuine acknowledgment of their misjudgment and no formal apology, both of which were highly anticipated. It took three weeks for Heinerscheid and her superior to announce their leave of absence, which appeared more like an attempt to wait out the storm. Although the outcome regarding Heinerscheid’s employment status remains debated, the question remains: why would she be retained?
Meanwhile, in the evolving market, Molson-Coors has strategically positioned itself. As Bud Light floundered, Molson-Coors seized the opportunity to enhance its flagship brand. Famous for promoting Coors Banquet with Sam Elliot’s resonant southern voice, the beer brand shifted its approach. This time, they enlisted Cole Hauser, renowned for his portrayal of the iconic anti-hero cowboy Rip Wheeler in “Yellowstone,” as their new spokesperson.
The new advertisement, unveiled in May, showcases a subtle shift in the ad copy, focusing on the beer’s target audience: “When you’re the favorite beer of rock stars, smugglers, cowboys, and presidents…” The contrast is stark: Bud Light, represented by Dylan Mulvaney, versus the allure of Rip Wheeler’s beer. This strategic move comes at a favorable time for alternative brands. As Bud Light’s appeal waned, rival beer brands reaped the rewards. With Modelo securing the top-selling position by June’s end, Coors Light enjoyed a 17.3 percent jump, Miller Light saw 14.3 percent growth, and Corona Light experienced a 3 percent boost.
As former Bud Light enthusiasts explore new options for their beer glasses, it’s the ideal moment for rival brands to establish their identity. The recent campaign featuring Cole Hauser has already proven successful, contributing to Coors Banquet’s double-digit growth and propelling Molson-Coors to its most successful quarter in volume sales in 15 years. Undoubtedly, Rip Wheeler would be proud of these impressive numbers.