Bud Light Go Back To Summer Basics

Bud Light

Easy to Summer


Marketers are watching Bud Light’s summer campaign more closely than usual this year, for obvious – and unfortunate – reasons. It’s rare for a consumer boycott to hit a brand as hard as the conservative backlash against Bud Light after trans actress Dylan Mulvaney mentioned her partnership with the brand. To make things worse, the beer brand’s response angered a different set of customers, who felt Bud Light was letting down the LGBTQ+ community.

The Bud Light sales slump is real, but as we’ve seen with reputational hits as diverse as Nike’s Colin Kaepernick ad and VW’s emissions scandal, consumer anger does cool over time. The question is, can Bud Light’s new campaign be big, emotional and positive enough to speed up that process? “Easy to Summer” won’t turn the brand’s fortunes around overnight, but it gets a lot right and performs exceptionally well in key areas.

At times when a brand is under scrutiny, testing ads with ordinary viewers is more important than ever. People will be coming to this commercial with strong priors, and we need to avoid prejudgements and look at the data.

Some will be hoping the backlash has run out of steam – but it continues to have an impact on responses. There’s a steady stream of negative reactions, like anger and contempt, beyond what we’d expect a beer ad like this to get. Some viewers are still furious.

Others will want evidence that Bud Light is permanently damaged. But the test doesn’t suggest that. Angry viewers are real, but they’re now comfortably outweighed by happy ones, and the negative response doesn’t overwhelm the ad.

In fact, “Easy to Summer” lands at a good 3.6-Stars on Test Your Ad. For a brand in trouble whose highest scoring ad ever is only 4.2-Stars, that’s as good as anyone could expect. (For comparison, Mulvaney’s endorsement scored 1-Star, not just with the general public but with an all-LGBTQ+ sample).

Meanwhile, short-term Spike Rating and Brand Fluency are both Exceptional. Bud Light’s job right now is to rebuild positive mental associations – “Easy to Summer” is a good first step.

What is it about the ad that works well? Bud Light have gone back to emotional basics with this one, and used two of the most reliable elements for positive response. The first is an ad full of human interaction – glances, gestures, and smiles. The second is a classic song on the soundtrack – Chic’s 1979 hit “Good Times”. Both of these speak to the right hemisphere of the brain, whose broad-beam attention is drawn by human between-ness and catchy, familiar music. It’s a commercial tailor-made for instinctive positive response.

If “Easy to Summer” is a good first step, what should Bud Light do next? Let’s look again at their top-scoring commercial, a 2019 ad starring their Bud Knight character. The Bud Knight was killed off shortly after, but he’s an iconic character who can unlock plenty of good memories for viewers. Bringing him back is a great move – and that’s exactly what the brand has announced they’re doing.

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