Influencer marketing is a whole new dimension of word-of-mouth marketing that has quickly gained popularity over the past few years. And it’s easy to see why—influencers have the uncanny ability to affect their followers’ purchasing decisions.

Also, influencers are there on every social media platform, from Instagram to Twitter. This means that they may have oceans of followers, who, for many businesses, may become potential customers.

Many businesses around the world have discovered the power of word-of-mouth marketing and are now working with well-known influencers to increase brand awareness and attract new customers. 

This is usually done by a brand sending their product to an influencer, who then talks about the product in their content and presents a promo code to get a discount. 

Influencer marketing isn’t too complicated, but if not done properly, the results can be disastrous—case in point, Bud Light’s March 2023 social media marketing campaign.

What did Bud Light get wrong?

In March 2023, Bud Light, a popular producer of beer based in the United States, launched a marketing campaign with transgender influencer Dylan Mulvaney in the spotlight. 

The purpose of the marketing campaign was to reach new audiences and promote diversity. But by trying to reach out to untapped audiences, Bud Light inadvertently alienated their core audience. 

Though many applauded the Bud Light ad featuring Dylan Mulvaney for being progressive, others called the move too political. Due to the backlash, Bud Light pulled the ad from social media.

But the story doesn’t end there. By pulling the ad and backtracking on their commitment to the influencer post, they alienated their new audience as well. In the end, Bud Light didn’t gain a new audience, and they lost almost everyone.

While many brands like Bud Light are trying to diversify their audience, this often means having to walk a thin line between what is considered to be offensive and what is considered to be inclusive. 

The failure of Bud Light’s recent campaign serves as a reminder to businesses that even if their marketing campaigns are laced with good intentions, they may come off as offensive to some audiences as not everyone shares the same perspective. 

On the flip side, however, cautiously staying away from trying new things and avoiding reaching new audiences can also lead to failure. Even though there are always risks when it comes to influencer marketing, not trying new things can make a brand look stale.

So what can we learn from Bud Light’s influencer marketing campaign?

Creating a great influencer marketing campaign isn’t as easy as it looks, but there are some valuable lessons to be learnt from Bud Light’s marketing fiasco.

You need to do diligent research

Before working with an influencer, it’s important to do plenty of research to understand who they are, who they represent, and what potential risks may come from any past controversies surrounding them.

So it’s important to analyse the influencer’s past content, their target demographics, the responses they’ve received from people, and how they engaged with sensitive topics.

Also, by identifying an influencer’s audience demographics, marketers can extrapolate how their own target audience will respond to their brand being marketed by that influencer.

Had Bud Light done more thorough research, they would have been able to make more informed decisions about the partnership with Dylan Mulvaney and prepare for any potential backlash.

You need to understand your audience’s sentiment

While researching the values of influencers and their audience demographics is very important, marketers should also gauge the attitudes and preferences of their own target audience. With this information, marketers can ensure that their influencer partnerships will resonate with their customers’ expectations.

In Bud Light’s case, a good understanding of their audience could have provided some valuable insights into the kind of potential backlash their partnership with Dylan Mulvaney would cause. 

By researching their customers’ attitudes towards a transgender person and the idea of inclusivity, Bud Light may have been able to anticipate the potential backlash they received and adjusted their approach to curb it.

You need to respond to negative feedback effectively

In the digital age, public sentiment can very easily turn against a brand, so it’s important to have an effective crisis control plan. By addressing the criticism quickly, transparently, and authentically, a brand can reduce the impact of the backlash and still maintain the audience’s trust.

Engaging with critics is an important aspect of crisis control. By listening to people’s feedback, engaging in meaningful dialogue, and addressing concerns, a brand can quickly rebuild trust with its audience.

Had Bud Light addressed critics’ concerns and engaged with them, they could have demonstrated their willingness to understand and learn from the situation. 

Starting an influencer marketing campaign? Don’t rush it

In the world of social media marketing, controversies can arise very quickly. But by prioritising continuous adaptation, transparency, and authenticity, brands can resonate better with the audience and drive meaningful engagement.

In addition, by approaching influencer partnerships with the right research and thoughtfulness, brands can nurture meaningful relationships with their audience and navigate any backlash with finesse.