In a groundbreaking move, Alissa Heinerscheid was promoted to vice-president of marketing for Bud Light in July 2022, marking the first female VP in the brand’s 40-year history. Heinerscheid took on the challenge of revitalizing Bud Light, a brand that had been in decline for years, by making it more inclusive and appealing to younger drinkers. However, her tenure faced an unexpected downturn, leading to one of the largest boycotts in US history.
The controversy erupted when Bud Light partnered with transgender influencer Dylan Mulvaney for a social media campaign. Rightwing anti-trans groups unleashed a vicious backlash against the brand, resulting in a substantial decline in sales and the end of Bud Light’s two-decade dominance in the US beer market.
This incident shed light on internal leadership issues within Anheuser-Busch, with employees describing a culture of incompetence and fear-driven decision-making. Meanwhile, Heinerscheid and other marketing directors faced personal attacks, including death threats, amid the brand’s public relations crisis.
The Bud Light case highlights the complexities of corporate LGBTQ+ support and the consequences of missteps in the ever-evolving landscape of inclusive marketing. It also raises questions about the role of diversity in corporate leadership and the need for more empathetic handling of such controversies.
In an environment where corporate responsibility and LGBTQ+ support are scrutinized more than ever, Bud Light’s experience serves as a cautionary tale for brands navigating the intersection of business and social advocacy.