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Bud Light: Easy to Summer, Harder to Recover

August 2023

This is a self-funded case study using our ad testing solution.

Bud Light has found itself in a bit of a pickle over recent times 🥒. Positive news around the brand has been scarce in the wake of the Dylan Mulvaney controversy, an episode which saw the brand collaborate with a prominent trans influencer. It resulted in a significant backlash from sections of the public, with strident Bud Light enthusiasts even boycotting the brand entirely. The fall-out within the four walls of Anheuser-Busch (the brand’s owner) has also been profound, with the departures of a number of key personnel behind the campaign. With sales still yet to fully recover the effects of the controversy continue to linger.

In an effort to calm the simmering tension, the brand launched a new campaign in time for the northern hemisphere summer. Aptly titled Easy to Summer, the ad puts a humorous spin on quintessential summertime activities. The ad also builds off the Easy to Drink, Easy to Enjoy platform which made its first appearance during Super Bowl 2023, with the launch ad (starring Miles Teller and his wife Keleigh Sperry dancing in their living room) proving highly effective. But has the follow-up installment of this warm, light-hearted theme been enough to make the controversy which followed a distant memory?

There were certainly elements of the ad that appealed, with the Good Times soundtrack in particular well-enjoyed. In addition, the humorous attempts by different characters to cool off (all resulting in an epic fail) put a smile on people’s faces while simultaneously helping get across the product’s refreshing qualities. However, despite these positives, the ad ultimately failed to hit the mark.

While advertising which taps into softer, more passive emotions still has every chance of being effective, its success ultimately relies on making use of things such as storytelling and music to elicit an intense emotional reaction from viewers. What was intended to be fun, relatable, and lighthearted was instead viewed as somewhat generic, with the ad leaving very few people with impressions which unmistakably screamed “Bud Light”. Put another way, Bud Light could’ve been replaced with any other beer (or cold beverage) and the narrative wouldn’t have been disrupted nor the synergy of impressions questioned.

We also saw signs to suggest polarization remains a concern, with less than half of beer drinkers agreeing that Bud Light was ‘a brand for them’ after seeing the ad — indicating that there’s many who still have a bitter taste in their mouths. Will the brand recover in the medium- to long-term? Very likely, especially if history’s anything to go by. However, as much as the brand needs to play it safe and be as inoffensive as possible at this time, it also can’t fall into the trap of blending in with the furniture and saying nothing of substance. New brand memories need to be created (or prior ones reinforced) in order to give Bud Light — and their drinkers — the opportunity to move on.

Bud Light - Easy to summer - Ad testing Cubery

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