We’ve all seen the news over the last two months: Costco places ‘star of death’ on Bud Light cases – suggesting it won’t restock beer, Bud Light is no longer America’s best-selling beer. Here’s why, Bud Light parent Anheuser-Busch’s stock has lost $27B over Dylan Mulvaney, and Target market cap losses hit $15.7 billion, shares approach 52-week low amid woke backlash.

Regardless of your stance on social issues, you don’t have to look far to see that Bud Light and Target have a big issue with their audience, or more importantly, misreading the audience to whom they cater.

It doesn’t matter if you’re the head of a Fortune 500 company, the Executive Director of a Non-profit, or a candidate for office; knowing your audience matters as it is a foundational step in creating a communications or marketing campaign.

A candidate in Maine wouldn’t talk about the importance of coal mining at a roundtable with lobstermen anymore than Walmart would sell heavy winter coats to consumers in South Florida. Why? Because they know the basics about their audience. However, the basics of understanding the socio-economic factors of what makes up a community is no longer enough when it comes to understanding an audience. For brands and candidates, it’s important to go deeper by understanding how their audience views on the issues can impact their overall bottom line.

A Lending Tree article from 2022 found that 1 in 4 Americans were boycotting certain businesses because their values didn’t align. Meanwhile, “83% of millennials want companies to align with their values.”

You might be asking yourself… with so many companies finding ways to celebrate Pride, why did Bud Light and Target’s campaign backfire in such a devastating way? Other companies didn’t overlook the deeper changes within their audiences and found a middle ground that worked for their efforts, while respecting their audience. Anheuser-Busch gambled on the strategy that the same audience that buys camo cans in bulk would be comfortable with their Pride strategy. They lost.

The lesson we can learn from Bud Light and Target is simple: As Americans look beyond the brick and mortar when it comes to their values, it’s time for companies to do the same with their audience.

-Preya Samsundar