It doesn’t seem quite that long ago, but it’s already been several years since Anheuser-Busch InBev released their horribly offensive Bud Light Super Bowl commercial in February 2019. In it, they basically rip into corn syrup and brag about how Bud light is superior because it doesn’t use corn as an ingredient.
If you need a reminder of the kickoff to that “no corn syrup” ad campaign, here’s the Super Bowl spot:
The collective thoughts of farmers were … go home, Bud Light. You’re drunk!
Needless to say, it didn’t go well for them. Thousands of people swirled social media, a verifiable Twitterstorm. The backlash was loud and angry, with numerous people fighting back against the negative campaign. Taking deep offense, the corn industry, corn farmers, and consumers alike all spoke out against this slanderous campaign.
The tweet below from the National Corn Growers Association was just one example — there was also a video of Kevin Ross, former president of NCGA shown, dumping his Bud Light down the drain (which garnered almost 1 million views).
Now if a corporation wants to use different ingredients, that’s fine. The problem comes from demonizing one group over another in an effort to mislead consumers about quality or safety in an effort to try and generate more profits.
In the commercial, Bud Light puts down Miller Lite and Coors by insinuating they’re less superior since they brew with corn, which ultimately resulted in a lawsuit led by MillerCoors. Trying to say that one beer is better than the other because they don’t use corn is factually inaccurate and doesn’t make it any better for you. Um, it’s beer for pete’s sake! Hey Bud Light, know your customer base.
I was living in the heart of Iowa corn country when this all went down. People were boycotting the beer and sharing hashtags like #dumpdillydilly and #yourecutoff, while local beer distributors in our communities were complaining of lost sales.
So what happened? Although I don’t believe Bud Light came out and necessarily said, “I’m sorry,” the Anheuser-Busch parent company did respond by sharing their love for farmers. I retweeted with my commentary — and many others responded similarly. This is what happens when we in agriculture stand up for ourselves and fight back — sometimes corporations actually listen. (Check out this link with a similar story on a Burger King success story, where I was able to have discussions with their global chief marketing officer).
Yes, advocacy for agriculture works. No need to mess with farmers — and don’t bite the hand that feeds you! (Or gets you drunk, haha!) Show some respect and take notes: You’re better off lifting farmers up instead of tearing them down.
So shortly thereafter, Anheuser-Busch launched this amazingly clever Busch Light campaign promoting all things corn. If you order a Busch light draft in Iowa, the tapper looks like this:
I went to a bar in Illinois corn country and took a picture of this sign.
They came out with beer displays like this, as well as Busch Light combines and my personal favorite: Corn on the can.
They also worked with some hilarious and Midwest-based social media leaders like the “You Betcha” guy and Charlie Berens for Busch Light: “The nectar of the cobs.”
It must’ve worked out well, because just recently Busch Light partnered with John Deere and Farm Rescue to launch even more campaigns to promote and highlight farmers. How great is this? Spotted in Indianola, Iowa:
Not only is Anheuser-Busch showing more appreciation for farmers, but these limited edition cans are also for a good cause. For every case sold, Busch Light will donate $1 to the Farm Rescue charity, up to $100,000, and John Deere pledges to match it! Kudos to them for listening and helping with this drastic angle change in marketing.
What do you think, has Anheuser-Busch retained you as a customer? Do you forgive them and will you be buying cases of Limited Edition John Deere beer? We’d love to hear your thoughts.
Michelle Miller, the Farm Babe, is a farmer, public speaker, and writer who has worked for years with row crops, beef cattle, and sheep. She believes education is key in bridging the gap between farmers and consumers.