MARC’S ANGle - It would have been better if he stayed quiet. But the cowardly Anheuser Busch CEO Brendan Whitworth came out with a statement that actually brought both sides of the debate together to repudiate its awfulness.
On the left, the critical voices brought some truth bombs from calling it one of the worst brand gaffes in history to Ben Schott’s more pointed criticism about not standing behind one of their ambassadors when the heat in the kitchen got too hot.
From the right, I haven’t seen much beyond the generalized criticism on the brand move. So I’ll try to offer some angles beyond the obvious.
The first criticism is “wow, it took 2 weeks to come up with this pathetic statement”? The CEO’s statement was a long monologue of self-importance that never amounted to anything. Better if he just didn’t say anything, to be honest. But let’s analyze this carefully curated statement and break it down on why the left and the right are angrier than ever.
By trying to play a mythical middle ground, Brendan fails and actually unites everyone against him and his brand, ensuring the stock will tumble further and probably be hurt in the long term.
In these highly polarized times and a time in history when brands are accessible to us 24/7 on social media, statements like Brendan’s are going to be put under a microscope and also be judged on context.
'We never intended to be part of a discussion that divides people. We are in the business of bringing people together over a beer.” Brendan, no one cares about your intent. It’s about impact and this sounds more like a cowardly cop-out that doesn’t please anyone on the left (they see you as abandoning their transgender hero) or the right (it just comes off like you’re making excuses and “explaining is losing”). The middle you’re chasing only sees confusion and weakness.
How tone deaf are you or lazy that you don’t vet your brand ambassadors? One can see how Mulvaney would irk the right with over-the-top antics and blatantly political moves (like meeting with President Biden). So either this was willful or neglectful on the part of Bud Light and neither is good. It also doesn’t help that the VP of Marketing Alissa Heinerscheid has been going on podcasts telling people she wanted to dramatically overhaul an overly stale “fratty” brand. Brendan, did you not vet her either? Buck stops with you, bro.
“I am responsible for ensuring every consumer feels proud of the beer we brew,” Whitworth continues. The public’s response: “Who cares? And why are you telling us your job when you completely failed at it? Now half the country doesn’t feel proud. And you’re highlighting your failure on the job.”
Whitworth is an example of someone who wants it both ways. Trying to appeal to everyone and ultimately alienating his core base of supporters. It is obvious in his next statement where he panders to conservatives like a bad politician.
'My time serving this country taught me the importance of accountability and the values upon which America was founded: freedom, hard work and respect for one another. As CEO of Anheuser-Busch, I am focused on building and protecting our remarkable history and heritage.” How funny he talks about accountability while demonstrating there is none in the vetting process of his brand ambassadors or in his actions after the company lost about $6 billion in market cap.
Also notice the cheesy buzz words peppered through that last statements which reads like an AI generated resume. Brendan thinks he can simultaneously appeal to conservatives which seems to be the intent of this milquetoast statement. This insanity continues in his final statement.
“I care deeply about this country, this company, our brands and our partners. I spend much of my time traveling across America, listening to and learning from our customers, distributors and others.” My first thought on this was, “you’re traveling on the company’s dime and you couldn’t even absorb important lessons?” Failure again.
I spoke to my friend, SoCal resident and mom, Barb Leon who wisely said “He thinks throwing around patriot lingo means ‘I am sorry’? It shows how disconnected he is from his customers.”
I thought this buzzword-focused statement actually made things even more insulting. It was also sneaky and condescending. I expect the woke to act woke and do things like this but when we have a supposed conservative trying to play both sides for profits, it all ends up seeming cynical, exploitative and I agree with my brother on the left, Ben Schott. Integrity would mean sticking by Mulvaney and defending your decision. Not cowering to the rage mob on the right and issuing this pathetic milquetoast statement that said nothing and took 15 days to produce.
My final issue is this is coming from a former marine. Marines had a proverbial sack at one time. They wouldn’t talk this much and say nothing. Their actions and deeds would communicate greater than any PR statement. Or they would quietly admit defeat in silence and “be better”.
It also goes to show the failure of academia. Brendan went to Harvard Business School but doesn’t seem to understand a thing about business from the initial decision to bring Mulvaney on (off brand), the need to differentiate from the market (old brand set itself apart from Coors/Miller) or how to handle damage control PR. All these key check points were just abject business failures with no research on metrics or their own customer base. Does merit even matter anymore?
Finally, it reminds me that our former greatest institutions have now been reduced to a joke if Brendan Whitworth and his pathetic statement are what they have to show for.
(Marc Ang ([email protected]) is a community organizer in Southern California and the founder ofAsian Industry B2B. He has written many pieces analyzing pop culture and it’s context in the world and politics. Marc’s book “Minority Retort” was released on November 9, 2022 through Trinity Broadcasting Network available on Amazon, Target, Barnes & Noble and many more outlets. )