OPINIONConsumer Trends

What restaurateurs can learn from the culture wars—including how to stay clear

Working Lunch: The Bud Light and Disney controversies show how businesses can be sucked in.

Could a beer can really be the threat to American morals that attackers assert it is? And is the possible next president of the United States really going after one of the nation’s most venerated entertainment companies because it doesn’t agree with a widely criticized social policy?

If the conservative attacks on Anheuser-Busch and The Walt Disney Co. sound too outlandish to believe, it’s because they’re “phenomenally stupid,” veteran industry lobbyist Joe Kefauver asserts in this week’s Working Lunch political podcast. Yet, he and co-host Franklin Coley remark, sense doesn’t always prevail in politics.  

Coley cited reports that sales of A-B’s Bud Light have dropped 17% since A-B sent a transgender “influencer” a can of the brew with a depiction of her on the packaging. The one-of-a-kind can was sent to Dylan Mulvaney as part of a push by the brewer to be more inclusive in its marketing. Mulvaney showed herself opening and drinking the beer on a blog that aired during March Madness.   

Conservatives have blasted A-B for its support of “woke” causes they regard as un-American.

“The idea that people will drop Budweiser after drinking it for 100 years, it’s phenomenally stupid,” said Kefauver, who runs the Orlando-based government-affairs consultancy Allied Public Strategies in partnership with Coley.

The Floridians also saw no reason in the decision of their governor, Ron DeSantis, to go after Disney for disagreeing with his controversial Don’t Say Gay policies, which essentially outlaw mentions of sexual orientations in the classrooms of young students. At the governor’s instigation, Disney was stripped of special concessions it was granted for turning central Florida into one of the world’s most-visited tourist destinations.

Last week, Disney countered with a lawsuit that accuses the state chief executive of seeking political retribution.

“DeSantis has backed himself into a corner,” said Kefauver. “It’s the silliest thing to pick these fights with iconic brands. It’s just so stupid.”

As ludicrous as the situations might be, he commented, they are a reminder of how easily big-name brands can be sucked into disputes over social issues when they’re trying to do the right thing.

“Brands are under a lot of pressure to wade into these social issues, and when they do, man, they can really get their knuckles rapped,” said Kefauver.

To hear his and Coley’s advice for avoiding those situations, download the episode from wherever you get your podcasts.

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