As an agency specializing in social media experiences, we couldn't help but cringe when we saw Bud Light's recent failed campaign with TikTok sensation Dylan Mulvaney. Not only did the partnership face controversy and boycotts from conservative groups, but Mulvaney herself was subjected to intense online harassment, leading to a short hiatus from social media.
Let's start with the basics - what were Bud Light and Mulvaney thinking when they decided to partner up? On the surface, it may seem like a match made in heaven - a popular influencer with millions of followers teaming up with a beloved beer brand. But when you dig a little deeper, it becomes clear that this partnership was a disaster waiting to happen.
Bud Light and Mulvaney have very different target audiences for one thing. Bud Light is often associated with blue-collar, "bro" culture, whereas Mulvaney is a transgender activist known for documenting her transition into "girlhood" on TikTok. The fact that Bud Light chose Mulvaney as their spokesperson makes me wonder how these audiences overlap.
But the problems didn't end there. As soon as the partnership was announced, conservative groups accused Bud Light of pushing "gender propaganda" and launched boycotts of the brand. Fellow trans woman Caitlyn Jenner even slammed Nike - who had also partnered with Mulvaney - for going "woke". The backlash was so intense that Mulvaney was forced to take a short break from social media to deal with the online harassment.
Bud Light clearly did not think this through - they saw an opportunity to capitalize on Mulvaney's massive following without considering the implications. Bud Light was exposed to scrutiny and backlash from groups who do not share Mulvaney's views on transgenderism by aligning themselves with such a controversial figure as Mulvaney.
So what can other brands and creators learn from this debacle? First and foremost, it's important to think carefully about who you partner with and what message you're sending to your audience. Brands should choose partners who share their values and can help them reach their target audience, rather than just jumping on the latest social media trend.
In addition, creators should be aware of the risks associated with partnering with brands, particularly if their views are controversial or polarizing. A partnership can boost your profile while reaching a wider audience, but it can also expose you to intense criticism and harassment from trolls online.
Ultimately, the Bud Light/Mulvaney partnership was a cautionary tale of what can happen when brands and creators don't think through their actions. By ignoring the vast differences between their respective audiences and aligning themselves with a controversial figure, Bud Light set themselves up for failure from the start. Hopefully, other brands and creators will learn from their mistakes and think more carefully about who they partner with in the future to create well-aligned brand partnerships.