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Bud Light Metapurpose Strategy

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Part Two: It's all about the Beer

In this second part of our case study, we apply the Metapurpose brand strategy to search for solutions for Bud Light's brand repositioning challenge.

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At the heart of this strategy are two components that we described in the Strategy section of this website:


(1) The Social Engagement Brand Spectrum (SEBS) is a structured analytical guide that aids decision-making about where to engage with target audiences and their families where they live and work.

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(2) AI-enabled Web3 augmented reality technology that will enable brands to form 'shared social engagements' with stakeholders and become indispensable parts of their lives.

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We start by mapping the attitudes and interests of Bud Light's traditional consumers (Generation X and Millennials) onto the Social Engagement Brand Spectrum. The SEBS chart on the left summarizes this mapping structure.

For simplicity, we are treating these consumers as a uniform group. However, a more comprehensive analysis would consider a wide range of demographic subfactors such as age, gender, race, and income within Bud Light's traditional audience. 

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Bud Light's traditional Gen X and Millennial consumers engage strongly within the 'Neighborhood' domain of the SEBS. They appreciate the common experiences, social cohesion, and shared interests that Bud Light facilitates with family, friends, and close colleagues during sports events, casual gatherings, and outdoor activities. They identify with Bud Light as an affordable, dependable choice that aligns with their lifestyle and sustains their leisure moments.


However, their interest in broader social engagements in the 'Community' domain remains mostly limited to family, friends, and colleagues.  While they passively value societal norms, conflict resolution, and inclusivity for the community at large, their own identity is actively rooted within their close-knit circles. Bud Light's brand positioning resonates directly with their 'friends and family' concept of community.


Lastly, and very importantly, despite showing early signs of growth, these audiences still demonstrate a very limited engagement in the 'Society' domain.

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The SEBS framework helps understand Bud Light's customer backlash while offering a roadmap for future strategies. The significant backlash from core customers towards Bud Light's support for a Trans Woman influencer, showcased through a promotional can design, might initially appear perplexing. After all, these same customers broadly accept Bud Light's long-standing and prominent support for LGBTQ+ parades and public events.

However, the SEBS lens clarifies this seemingly inconsistent response. Bud Light's core customers engage most actively at the Neighborhood level of the SEBS, where Bud Light beer is always present and available, accompanying family dinners, ballpark outings, or beach excursions. Although they acknowledge and passively support Bud Light's wider initiatives for community inclusivity, for them, it's all about the beer and the core distribution strengths that deliver Bud Light's brand values into their lives.

Unfortunately, the move to feature a Trans Woman social media personality on a promotional product was a misstep in this market sector. It wasn't perceived as part of Bud Light's continuing inclusivity initiatives, but instead, as a shocking overreach into the Society domain with a social cause actively linked to Bud Light beer and thereby to the identity of Bud Light consumers. Remember, for core customers, it's all about the beer, and this was a leap too far into the SEBS Society domain where their level of engagement is emerging but not yet substantial.

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Now let's consider the potential for Bud Light to extend its market engagement within the SEBS framework to encompass the tech-savvy, diversity-oriented Gen Z target.

Just as with Bud Light's traditional market, Gen Z is strongly engaged with Neighborhood values and activities, but their digital-native status broadens the concept of Neighborhood to include both physical and virtual relationships. This has major implications for Bud Light's opportunity to expand its product range to meet the diverse tastes and expanded relationships of this market. For example, these younger consumers increasingly prefer relationships beyond just close family and friends, and exploring different beer formulations, non-alcoholic drinks, cocktails, and long drinks, whereas Bud Light's traditional consumers lean narrowly towards close family and friends, and beer and wine. And because Gen Z consumers are digital natives, there is the potential for "social media drinking" online, creating virtual spaces where consumers can gather, connect, and share their beer experiences, opening up new, untapped markets in the digital realm.

Within the Community domain, Gen Z, is similar to Bud Light's traditional market, valuing inclusivity and social standards that foster equality and diversity within the community. However, beyond passive appreciation of these values, Gen Z actively embraces a broader spectrum of socially acceptable behaviors, understanding the nuances of these diverse communities.

Engagement with the Society domain is significantly more prominent among Gen Z consumers, mirroring their interest in societal matters and their aspiration to resonate with common causes, values, and experiences. Consequently, the current backlash would likely not have occurred with this market since they're more receptive to brands taking a stance on societal issues, aligning their brand preference with their personal identity.

On balance, the SEBS framework suggests two areas of focus for Bud Light's approach to Gen Z.


First and most importantly, the key will be providing an unexpanded product line that facilitates their broader engagement level in the Neighborhood and Community domains.


And secondly, with growing importance, meeting their increased desire to bond with brands that reflect their values in the SEBS Society domain.

With these compiled insights, we've outlined the basic elements of a recovery plan for Bud Light based on the MetaPurpose Strategy. This plan takes advantage of AI and Web3 augmented reality technologies, adding to Bud Light's existing Web2 market activation efforts. It aims at three primary objectives: correct the ongoing backlash, renew the bond with traditional customers, and extend market reach to an expanded demographic that includes Millennials, Gen X, and Gen Z.

The first bold step towards recovery requires a public apology. Bud Light's sales continue to decline, falling by 26.1% in the week ending July 15, surpassing even the 23.6% fall during the July 4 week, a key period for beer sales. There are growing retailer problems, and retirement funds are getting anxious. This downturn could affect the company's other beer brands if unaddressed. A genuine apology is crucial, signifying transparency, responsibility, and respect for public sentiment.

Explain, don't justify. Analytics are persuasive. Use the MetaPurpose SEBS framework, tailored to crisis communication language, to help clarify what happened and why.

A corrective strategy commitment is required focusing on product development and positioning Bud Light as a technology pioneer in the emerging Ai-enabled Web3 augmented reality world. This commitment will involve:

     1. Outlining AI-enabled product development and distribution plans that tailor to changing preferences,  identify trends and preferences in core markets, spot new product formulations catering to the rising taste for hoppy, malt, or alcohol-free beers, and optimize distribution to ensure these new products reach the intended market segments efficiently.

     2. Improving services through AI by personalizing customer experiences based on individual preferences and behavior patterns, optimizing internal processes, enhancing efficiency and reducing costs, and boosting human and technology skills through AI-based training programs and AI-powered tools.

     3.  Utilizing AI to identify new or untapped market extensions and customer segments, anticipate trends, and innovate the product lineup accordingly, such as catering to changing preferences among different age groups.

Reaffirm a commitment to customer input by fostering dialogue about what customers expect from Bud Light in each SEBS domain. Cement this commitment by establishing traditional Web2 and advanced AI-enabled Web3 platforms for such discussions. Include discussions of specific initiatives, indicating cautious engagement within the Society domain while firmly supporting the Neighborhood and Community domains.

Use AI-enabled market research to collect and analyze data on customer preferences and engagement levels across the SEBS domains. Use machine learning to help identify patterns, preferences, and potential areas of concern, thereby directing the evolution of brand messaging and marketing strategies.

Set up a Web3 platform for customer engagement to facilitate discussions about the brand's direction within each SEBS domain. Use blockchain technology to ensure transparency and build trust, facilitating the sharing of plans, collecting feedback, and involving the community in decision-making.

Launch a Web3 augmented reality campaign to enhance Neighborhood and Community experiences that attract Bud Light consumers from both traditional and new target customer groups, such as Bud Light-sponsored events that integrate physical and virtual spaces at sports tailgate parties.

Cautiously re-engage within the Society domain, supported by research, and forge partnerships with organizations addressing causes that resonate with Millennials, Gen X, and Gen Z.

As Gen Z engagement grows, use AI-enabled Web3 augmented reality technologies to construct immersive experiences around societal causes, such as letting customers virtually participate in environmentally sustainable practices endorsed by the brand.

It may be useful to review previous sections of this website to re-familiarize yourself with important background information.

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