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Why Bud Light and Target Failed in DEI

When companies take a stance on social issues, such as supporting the LGBTQ+ community, they can make a big impact within said community. Companies that choose to take a stance will either be able to maintain or even capture new target audiences and increase sales or face backlash from consumers and/or potential current audiences. We're highlighting two major companies who had DEI Fails.

Dylan Mulvaney with Bud Light beer

Why was Bud Light a DEI Fail?

On April 1st, a trans-woman influencer, Dylan Mulvaney, posted a video on Instagram promoting a Bud Light contest. It resulted in a boycott of Bud Light from conservative audiences, who openly destroyed Bud Light cases of beer to show their disapproval of the collaboration, layoffs of two Anheyuser-Busch executives, and a loss of $395 million in revenue.

There are two issues with the Bud Light and Dylan Mulvaney collaboration:

  1. Bud Light’s marketing with Dylan Mulvaney wasn’t well executed and poorly thought out.

  2. Bud Light didn’t stand by Dylan Mulvaney (or the LGBTQ+ community) during the backlash.

Marketing with Dylan Mulvaney was overall a poor choice for Bud Light. The legacy beer brand essentially threw its current target market (Traditional Americans) off with the collaboration in a lazy way; there was no backstory, education, or slow introduction to the trans community for their current audiences. There was also no connection for either audience; Mulvaney is neither a basketball enthusiast nor known for drinking beer (at least not publicly). Why would Bud Light choose this specific trans-activist for their company, other than just for using a trans-person?

To make matters worse, when the backlash began to dominate the news, Bud Light didn’t stand by Dylan Mulvaney, instead focusing its marketing campaigns on sports and music. Dylan Mulvaney has since then spoken out about how Bud Light never reached out to her amid the backlash. Using Mulvaney to advertise beer to a very angry audience (and not checking up on her) put Mulvaney in a very dangerous situation, showing how Bud Light does not actually support the LGBTQ+ community.

"For months now, I've been scared to leave my house. I have been ridiculed in public. I've been followed," she said, choking up. "I have felt a loneliness that I wouldn't wish on anyone. And I'm not telling you this because I want your pity. I am telling you this because if this is my experience from a very privileged perspective, know that it is much, much worse for other trans people." (Dylan Mulvaney, NPR)

Why was Target’s PRIDE collection a DEI Fail?

In May 2023, Target set up their new Pride clothing collection ahead of Pride month but quickly became the Target of backlash in their stores. Customers tipped over displays, were hostile towards workers, and posted threatening videos on social media inside the stores. Because of these events, Target removed some controversial items and relocated the collection to the back of the store in some locations. (APNews)

While Target is known for being a more inclusive brand, and their annual Pride collection is nothing new, their decision to move the Pride collection to the back of the store and remove certain items sent a clear message to both the LGBTQ+ community and those who were against Pride; Target is willing to back down and doesn’t fully support the LGBTQ+ community.

What can companies learn from these DEI Failures?

Overall, the backlash in 2023 has been intense and increasingly hostile. Companies that previously openly supported (and profited from) the LGBTQ+ community are now beginning to back down from their decisions, resulting in upset customers from both sides. At FIG, we believe it's a company’s obligation and responsibility to be authentic to their customers. Companies don’t have to “choose a side” (they’re selling a product or service, not a community), but if they do, they must see it all the way through.


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