How to play conservatives like a Stradivarius

How to play conservatives like a Stradivarius

No one in this world, so far as I know—and I have searched the records for years, and employed agents to help me—has ever lost money by underestimating the intelligence of the great masses of the plain people. – H. L. Mencken

That magnificent declaration is generally misquoted as, “No one ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the American public,” errantly attributed to P. T. Barnum. But after a brief due diligence, I discovered that Mencken coined that proposition for the Baltimore Sun in a September 18, 1926, column.

And the fine folks at Anheuser-Busch (AB) have never forgotten his semi-humorous admonition.

So, let’s first establish that, when it comes to major corporate marketing efforts, no one holds a candle to AB’s advertising people. Why? Because through an incredibly effective PR campaign effort, they’ve sent Bud Light – the second worst beer in America – straight to number one. And they accomplished that astounding feat through a series of laugh-out-loud TV commercials and can’t miss celebrity/athlete endorsements.

Remember what Hall of Fame sportscaster Harry Caray did for the brand when he plied his trade for the Cubs.

“What’s the worst beer in America,” you ask? That’s easy! Coors anything. The single biggest mistake the Coors Brewing Company made was abandoning their artificial east-of-the-Mississippi scarcity because that was the only thing that miserable excuse for a beer had going for it.

Though their first-place grip is slipping in the era of craft beers, Bud Light remains the number one selling beer in the United States. So, while we’ll certainly stipulate that no Fortune 500 company is above the occasional stupid mistake:

  • New Coke
  • Quaker buying Snapple
  • Blockbuster refusing to buy Netflix
  • News Corp destroying Myspace
  • Yahoo didn’t buy Google for $1 million in 1998

when it comes to product marketing, AB has maintained an unusual immunity to the slightest misstep. Every one of their PR moves is carefully analyzed, timed, and flawlessly executed.

The problem is, even the best marketing strategy can only go so far when the product itself is fatally flawed. As we already noted, Bud Light has been steadily losing market share for years, particularly among the coveted younger beer drinker demographic, which meant AB had to come up with a clever plan to reverse the fading-into-oblivion decline.

Enter transgender influencer Dylan Mulvaney. Unless you’ve been living under a rather large slab of granite, you already know that, after AB printed her image on a special run of Bud Light cans, the conservative excrement hit the rotating air propelling device.

Why, I haven’t heard that much shrieking, howling, and whining from a bunch of self-professed non-snowflakes since that fragile group boycotted the Beatles, Walmart, Netflix, Starbucks, Oreos, Keurig, Target, Pepsi, Gillette, Nordstrom, The NFL, Nike, Univision, Macy’s, CNN, HBO, Chrysler, Goodyear/Dunlop, AT&T,, Disney, Chic-Fil-A, Grubhub, FedEx, Lyft, Progressive Insurance, T-Mobile, Papa John’s, TD AmeriTrade, and

Southern bar owners said they’d stop selling Bud Light. Travis Tritt (who?) removed all AB products from his concert riders. Then the luckiest no-talent hack on the planet, Kid Rock, posted a video of his ugly redneck ass using three cases of Bud Light for assault gun target practice.

But here’s what’s been conspicuously missing throughout the two-week backlash. There’s been none of the “we made a mistake” smarmy contrition with and the firing the corporate culprits fist pounding that’s typical of any company caught in the culture wars crosshairs. And you haven’t heard any of BS from AB because, not only did they expect the fallout, they counted on it!

Despite my animal magnetism, boundless wit, and striking good looks, I don’t have anywhere near Mulvaney’s 10.8 million followers, and AB is well aware of her vast reach, particularly among the younger crowd. I guarantee you that at least three times that number viewed her video promoting Bud Light.

Not to mention that every breakroom, coffee shop, and social media outlet all across this great nation is obsessed with the story. It’s the kind of free publicity bonanza that most CEOs can only dream about.

Sure! The company will face some short-term fiscal fluctuations as a result of the knee-jerk conservative response, but it won’t last very long because those delicate MAGA flowers can’t possibly keep track of their long list of embargoed entities.

AB also understands that old white Trump enthusiasts are, literally, a dying breed, as evidenced by the 2 percent liberal shift occurring with every Illinois Collar County even-year election. They took a well-calculated risk and decided to throw their Bud Light lot in with Millennials and Gen Z’ers, who don’t give a flying you-know-what about anyone’s sexuality.

Put more simply, when the dust finally settles, the Mulvaney partnership will turn out to be another brilliant AB marketing move.

But since we’re talking, and even though it was an eminently predictable reaction, I still don’t understand the vitriol aimed at a beer company and one transgender influencer. Howard Stern said he wants to interview Tritt and Rock so he can ask them “Why do you care so much,” adding:

I know Kid Rock. He transitioned from some kid in Michigan to a rock superstar. I’m really dumbfounded by why someone would care so much that they would blow up a can of Bud Light and say, ‘Fuck Anheuser-Busch.’ I don’t get it. 

I have been, and will be, the first liberal to stand up to that cancel culture and progressive in-your-face transgender bullying, but that ain’t Ms. Mulvaney. She seems like a genuinely happy individual whose capacity to be herself and enjoy life attracts a slew of followers. Meanwhile, my surly old bald white ass can’t manage to captivate just one percent of her audience. Maybe if I started dressing like Holly Golightly…?

Please tell me how Mulvaney’s face on a few Bud Light cans not intended for public sale can negatively impact anyone’s life? It’s not like she’s insisting that people follow her. If she isn’t your cup of tea the answer is very simple – don’t click on her videos.

But when all is said and done, the best part of this absurd kerfuffle is how conservatives have been played like a Stradivarius in the hands of Hilary Hahn – and they haven’t even begun to consider their complicity in keeping Bud Light the number one American beer. Good for you Anheuser-Busch!


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