Horseshoe theory, meet Bud Light critics. Bud Light critics, meet the horseshoe theory.
The theory, explained in 2021 by Reason Magazine, “posits that the political spectrum isn’t linear, but bent like a horseshoe, with leftist and rightist extremists closer to each other than either side would like to admit.”
Allow me to summarize the controversy that has made headlines over the last fortnight or so. Bud Light partnered with Dylan Mulvaney, a transgender person who is biologically male and identifies as female. A lot of people didn’t like the association so they set out to boycott Bud Light, spurred on by guidance from some of the brightest and most astute minds that champion their ideals, like that of musician Kid Rock. Then Anheuser-Busch, which owns Bud Light, released a statement downplaying its involvement with Mulvaney, saying it only intended to “bring people together over a beer.” Of course, that didn’t go over well with trans-rights activists, and now, neither side likes Bud Light.
Adding an impossibly entertaining wrinkle, it turns out that Anheuser-Busch is a Republican Party donor, prompting even Donald Trump Jr. to ask his social media followers to end the boycott. The response really points to one of the key lessons to take away from this debacle: that neither idealogical corner was alert enough to realize Anheuser-Busch, no matter where its political dollars go, doesn’t care about producing a beer for conservatives or a beer for progressives.
It cares about making money.
This would also be a good time for the beer drinkers that got bent out of shape to understand protesting Bud Light should also mean canceling Budweiser, Kona Brewing Co., Michelob Ultra, Stella Artois, Estrella Jalisco, Busch, Natural Light, Landshark, Presidente, Hoegaarden, and Shock Top. They’re all Anheuser-Busch products.
Most of those are watered-down, cheap beers anyway, some might counter.
Well, Anheuser-Busch also boasts a 20-deep arsenal of craft brew labels including North Carolina favorites Appalachian Mountain Brewery, which originated in Boone, and Wicked Weed Brewing of Asheville.
Are you starting to see why Donald Trump Jr. organized a retreat? Anheuser-Busch could have manufactured rainbow-colored bottles and cans and it still wouldn’t have been a battle worth fighting for anyone that understands the business dynamics at play. Actually, the company did sell rainbow-themed products, starting in 2019 to celebrate Pride Month, and a comparative few noticed or cared.
Anheuser-Busch might not have succeeded in bringing people together over a beer, but it did help highlight the parallel between extreme sectors of the left and right and their desire to live in a world of black and white, with no gray.
Boycotts can be logical. Protests are a fundamental element of democracy. “Hit them where it hurts,” we like to say. At times, it’s both a justified and necessary means for change.
But when it comes to corporate marketing campaigns, there’s usually no sense in taking the message personally.
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