In June of 2022, Anheuser-Busch hired a bright, young, female VP of Marketing to keep its leading U.S. beer brand, Bud Light, fresh and relevant. Not a year later, in March of 2023, Alissa Heinerscheid infamously gave an interview in which she referred to the venerable brand as “declining,” “fratty,” and “out of touch.” Two days later, on April 1, Bud Light’s fateful marketing partnership with transgender superstar-influencer-cum-marketing-kryptonite Dylan Mulvaney debuted. A historic revenue and market-value disaster ensued, rivaling only one other such mistake in American marketing history.
In 2012, JC Penney ran ads that featured same-sex couples with their kids for Mother’s Day and Father’s Day. The retailer also hired Ellen DeGeneres as a spokesperson. That rainbow retrofit 11 years ago caused Penney’s to shed a quarter of its market value.
Now, as in 2012, these disasters occurred in a PR field that was becoming saturated with pro-LGBTetc. propaganda. What happened to make them fail so completely and catastrophically where so many others had been tolerated or even successful? Hindsight suggests an ill-advised foisting of exotic sexuality advocacy onto an audience that didn’t appreciate it, poorly timed to occur at the moment when Americans had reached a tipping point of fed-upness. They were straws that broke the culture camel’s back.
As we savor the first-ever “Pride Month” during which woke CEOs are coping with the new reality that rainbow spokescreatures are currently radioactive, we also spare a thought for the benighted executive who made such an incredibly poor decision that it has already generated a new term in the business world: “Bud Lighting.” We are conservatives, after all, and even while we love us some schadenfreude, we still care for the human beings at the center of the sh*tstorm they caused.
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Top of mind for me has been Alissa Heinerscheid. Yes, she exhibited the vexing hubris of her class and generation, but in all fairness, she couldn’t have known better and no doubt believed herself to be following a well-worn — indeed, conservative — marketing path in this brave new era. Yet her poor decision-making led to the collapse of a storied, venerable American brand that will serve as a cautionary tale for decades to come. What must that feel like? What does one do with oneself all day? Is there any relief from the crushing knowledge of one’s historic, devastating failure?
Thirty-nine-year-old Heinerscheid lives in a well-to-do section of New York City with her husband, Henry Charles Heinerschield, and their three young children. (The couple met at Harvard, natch.) She has been on a leave of absence from Anheuser-Busch since the colossal scale of her blunder became evident, and it remains unknown whether or not she is still on the payroll. Britain’s Daily Mail tracked her down outside her “$8m Central Park home.”
Dressed in a faded denim shirt, her hands jammed into the pockets of her black jeans, the haggard-looking disgraced exec was walking on the sidewalk with a female friend of similar class and culture at her side. The Daily Mail reporter asked her for comments about corporate claims that Mulvaney had been hired by an outside ad agency without AB executives’ knowledge. Heinerscheid did not reply. “She’s not supposed to talk about it, she can’t,” claimed her friend before whisking her away.
An anti-climactic report, to be sure. We can only hope Heinerscheid has learned some lessons from her abject failure, and that among them is the crucial value of humility. And we pray she puts those lessons to good use someday.