Bud Light Metapurpose Strategy
Part One: Errors from a Past Generation Cast a Long Shadow
It will be useful from time to time to review the previous two sections of this website to re-familiarize yourself with important background information.
Join us for the intriguing story of Bud Light, a brand at the forefront of what we believe is the inaugural battle of the MetaPurpose Wars—a battle that will redefine a brand's "value for society." Over the past few months, as Bud Light has grappled with connecting to new generations of beer drinkers, it was hobbled by a significant misstep. Instead of embarking on a deliberate brand repositioning plan that capitalizes on their core product development and distribution strengths, they opted for a faster, more aggressive approach: aligning their brand values with a social cause to win over new customer segments.
As we observed the problem unfold, it became evident that all major beer companies, including AB InBev, Molson Coors, and Constellation Brands, face challenges in growing their existing beer portfolios. Traditional beer brands are finding growth in today's market exceptionally tough, and Bud Light is no exception. For years, they have witnessed a decline in volume, losing ground from their leading market share to competitors from other traditional brands, craft beers, and spirits. Consequently, Bud Light has urgently sought new customers.
While Bud Light's strategy to use "value for society" as a marketing tactic may appear to be an ill-advised and recent idea resulting from this sense of urgency, this is not the case. It's important to recognize its origins. The concept dates back over a generation when brands began addressing the need to provide value beyond their traditional markets and investors by demonstrating their social value. Gradually over the past decade, supporting social causes to secure market share and attract new customer segments has become a widely adopted strategy.
However, it has proven to be a serious misstep, with potential consequences brewing in the shadows, gaining strength, and waiting for the right moment to erupt. And now, that moment has arrived. The backlash to Bud Light's use of this strategy makes it a compelling case study, and the prevalence of similar challenges numerous brands face intensifies the urgency to find a viable solution.
The intention was never for a brand's social value to be a marketing tactic. Aligning market strategy with social causes too often lacks a tangible connection to core deliverables, leaving brands vulnerable and lacking support when unforeseen challenges and problems emerge. This has been painfully visible during Bud Light's backlash. Instead, from the very beginning, a brand's value for society should have employed a comprehensive approach that applies its core business strengths to address the social needs of places where people and their families live and work—within their neighborhoods, communities, and society.
We call this comprehensive approach a brand's MetaPurpose. It focuses on building "shared social engagements," where brands become integral to stakeholders' lives, creating deeper brand loyalty with a lasting impact. Imagine the potential of integrating a brand's tangible benefits into the very fabric of individuals' lives.
We have defined three rules that underpin all successful MetaPurpose brand strategies. Unfortunately, Bud Light violated the first two rules, resulting in a disorganized retreat in the face of an unexpected and complex backlash.
The first rule involves carefully defining, building on, and securing brand leadership with current customer segments based on existing core strengths. For Bud Light, taste has never been the primary focus. Instead, the brand's strengths lie primarily in product availability and distribution. These core strengths support Bud Light's current brand positioning, seamlessly integrating into consumers' lives—whether enjoyed with family and friends at dinner, a ball game, or the beach, Bud Light is always present.
Strategies that secure Bud Light's core business serve as the runway for expansion into new market segments. And only after this foundation is established does a platform become available to implement Rule Two: stretching and expanding core strengths to deliver tangible benefits in adjacent areas that resonate with the new generations of customers.
As noted earlier, Bud Light violated these first two MetaPurpose brand strategy rules. The solution is not simple, but succumbing to the temptation of moving too quickly often leads to unfortunate results at the runway's end.
Part Two of our Bud Light Metapurpose Strategy case study will explore corrective strategies to address these missteps.
As we take these corrective steps, Bud Light will be recognized for providing tangible benefits to customers and their families in the places, neighborhoods, and societies where they live and work.
This becomes the platform for implementing Rule Three: Building an expanded MetaPurpose brand positioning for current markets AND Gen Z based on 'shared social engagements' where the Bud Light brand represents more than just a fun and social lifestyle brand that brings friends together. Instead, the Bud Light brand will become integral to their lives, create deeper brand loyalty with existing markets, and broaden the appeal to new segments.