7 Tips for Taking Your Mission to the Masses
Bud Light recently faced backlash in response to its marketing campaign with influencer Dylan Mulvaney, which it designed to expand its mission of “bringing more people together over beer.”
As more companies explore purpose-driven marketing, there’s a lot to think about beyond the campaign itself.
7 Tips to Consider When Taking Your Mission to The Masses:
- Don’t be afraid to take a stand. The brands that tend to do best are those that have a bigger purpose. Because companies are operating under a microscope more now than ever, it can be easy to focus on audiences who will vocally disagree with you, rather than those who will enthusiastically connect with your campaign.
- Be clear on why you’re doing what you’re doing. It’s important to make an informed and authentic decision about the direction of your brand. A thoughtful approach has the added benefit of grounding you when faced with criticism.
- Your mission should go deeper than your marketing and products. It should be reflected company-wide, from your policies and partners to your culture and your C-Suite.
- Make decisions at the intersection of your brand and your customers. What are your company’s ethical values? What are your customers’ values? And where do these two things intersect? This is the point from which you will best evolve your brand.
- Make sure that marketing’s vision aligns with the company vision. In the case of Bud Light, you had daring and bold marketers who wanted to progress the brand. But the company’s public response to backlash showed a clear misalignment between their conviction and that of leadership.
- Go slow to go fast. A traditional brand that wants to be more progressive, or vice versa, should consider taking a gradual approach, rather than going from 0 – 100. Consider expanding your existing stance with a series of micro-moments–each of which pushes the boundaries just a little bit further. This will help you test how far your audience is willing to travel with you.
- Predict and prepare for potential pitfalls in advance. Right now, even the slightest detour in a brand’s narrative can be seen as provocative or polarizing. Get a diverse group of people around the table to map out the potential pushback, and how you will handle it under high-pressure circumstances.
BRAD SMITH: Curating social strategy for a brand is a delicate dance. Take the timely example of Bud Light, a campaign with trans influencer Dylan Mulvaney, sparked a wave of hate. Subsequent boycotts saw Bud Light sales slip. Suddenly beer became politicized. Some were furious Bud Light partnered with Mulvaney. Others say the brand didn’t do enough to support her. When catering to one group angers another, it can feel like damned if you do, damned if you don’t.
Gretel Going is the founder of Channel V Media, a communications company and strategy and PR firm here in New York City. She joins me now. Thank you so much for taking the time.
GRETEL GOING: Nice to be here. Thank you.
BRAD SMITH: Absolutely. So let’s dive right in. Dylan actually, recently released a video on Thursday and speaking for the first time about the Bud Light incident. Let’s just roll this clip really quick, and we’ll start things off there
DYLAN MULVANEY: For a company to hire a trans person and then not publicly stand by them is worse, in my opinion, than not hiring a trans person at all because it gives customers permission to be as transphobic and hateful as they want. To turn a blind eye and pretend everything is OK, it just isn’t an option right now.
BRAD SMITH: And so there’s been a lot of back and forth about what Bud Light did wrong within this. But from a communications perspective, what should they have done?
GRETEL GOING: Well, in this situation, I mean, her point is fair enough. They might not have been contractually obligated to stand by her no matter what happens. But I think that there is an unspoken and unwritten contract when you work with influencers that, hey, this brand has done their homework. They know what they’re getting behind. And they are going to stand by me no matter what the backlash is.
I mean, you would assume that this brand has made an informed decision about who they are and what they stand for. And that I am part of that. So in this case, I do think that they should have stood behind her. I also think that there’s probably a disconnect between marketing and the rest of the organization.
I think we have a case here where we have, like, some pretty daring and bold marketers who kind of see the way the tides are turning, but their company wasn’t necessarily aligned with them. So that’s where we’re seeing this disconnect out there in terms of how they’re communicating.
BRAD SMITH: So for some companies they purely look at this as a way to broaden out the customer base, engage with a new type of potential beer drinker that they may not have seen gravitate towards them before. But with the decisions that they made, it became clear that it was purely performative in the messaging that they were putting forward before and the backtracking that they did thereafter.
So even after all that has taken place, now what? Because there’s a new campaign that’s come out that focuses more on the distributors, the people who create the beer, the people that are behind the operation as well.
GRETEL GOING: I don’t know if it was performative. I do think that Bud Light has a lot of really strong values and it does want to—I know their mission is to bring people around the table to have beer. And I do think they want to be more inclusive. But I think that there’s such a stark contrast between their kind of traditional brand in this more progressive way that they were going. And I think they almost potentially did it too quickly, and people weren’t ready for it.And I think actually this campaign that they’re coming out with that you mentioned, that would have been a nice step into stone to show, like, hey, here’s how diverse we are. Here’s how inclusive we are. And then suddenly start broadening the definition of what inclusive means to them. I think they kind of went 0 to 60 with this, which I’m all for. But I don’t think that their audience or even their management and their leadership was ready for that.