How the Dylan Mulvaney controversy hit Bud Light’s brand
August 31st, 2023, Christien Pheby

How the Dylan Mulvaney controversy hit Bud Light’s brand

On April 1 trans TikTok personality Dylan Mulvaney received some custom cans of Bud Light with her face printed on them, posting a video of the gift on social media. It’s a move that saw the brand take a major PR hit.

Data from YouGov BrandIndex US shows that between April 1, 2023 and June 11, 2023, Bud Light’s Index scores (a measure of brand health that factors in Impression, Quality, Value, Satisfaction, Recommend, and Reputation scores) plummeted from 7.7 to -8.4: a decline of 16.1 points. For a point of comparison, a competitor brand, Stella Artois, saw scores fall from 16.9 to 14.8 (-2.1).

Over this period, Impression scores, which measure overall positive and negative sentiment, fell from 6.2 to -14 (-20.2), next to a fall from 21.4 to 17.9 for the rival brand (-3.5). Beyond people looking at Bud Light more negatively, the American public were less likely to think about buying the beer on June 11, 2023 than they were before the controversy began.

Consideration scores for Bud Light, which ask consumers which brands they would choose when next in market, fell from 14.1 to 10.9 (-3.2), compared to fall from 13.2 to 12.1 (-2.3) for Stella.

There’s evidence to suggest this change in attitudes is being driven by older consumers. While Bud Light’s brand scores have deteriorated among all age groups, Index scores for Americans over 50 went from 7 to -14.5 (-21.5), compared to a decline from 7 to 0.9 (-6.1) among  35-49 year olds and a decline from 10.1 to -0.7 among 18-34 year olds (-10.8).

It might be worth comparing the impact of this story to other stories that have had major PR fallout. In some cases, e.g. Brewdog’s anti-sponsor Qatar World Cup campaign, we can see that, over a similar time period, UK Index scores fell from 7.9 to 7.1 (-0.8) between 7 November 2022 and 17 January 2023 (with a low point of 5.3 on 20 December 2022), while Impressions declined from 6.4 to 6.2 (-0.2), with a low point of 3.9 (20 Dec 2022). So it has had a larger effect than that particular brewhaha – but it wouldn’t necessarily be as dramatic as something like the UK’s P&O Ferries redundancy scandal.