The Hard-Earned Lesson of the Summer: Go Woke, Go Broke

Written by Curtis Ferrin

It’s always been true—pride comes before the fall. This summer, companies proved it like never before. The people spoke, voted with their dollars, and chose family values over corporate America’s virtue signaling. We witnessed companies that went “woke”—from Target to Anheuser-Busch—instantly regretting the backlash they caused and taking backward steps. People are tired of the nonsense, especially when marketing departments promote things like gender ideology that actively targets our children. Let’s review the corporate wokeness we’ve seen in recent months, and what happened next.

Minnesota’s Target Corp. You’ll recall that controversy erupted when Target stores set up LGBTQ displays in late May to prepare for the celebration of “pride” in June. They featured a variety of pride merchandise, such as a kid’s swimsuit labeled as “thoughtfully fit on multiple body types and gender expressions,” “tuck-friendly” swimsuits for men identifying as women, and children’s books titled “The Pronouns Book” and “Bye Bye Binary” among others lining shelves. Last but not least, Target partnered with a “queer” satanic clothing designer, Abprallen, who previously sold “Satan respects pronouns” t-shirts and “Trans Witches For Abortion” badges. The pride merchandise sparked a large flurry of anger from concerned parents and shoppers, leading to mass boycotts across the nation.

The pressure from its once-regular customers led Target to have an emergency meeting, and some locations removed certain pride products and moved displays to the back of the store. This was just the beginning as Target failed to hit its revenue goal in the second quarter, which ended July 29, for the first time in six years. Compared to the same quarter last year, sales sank 5.4 percent. As a result, Target lowered its sales and profit forecast for the rest of the year. In addition, online sales had decreased 10.5 percent, and the average number of dollars spent per transaction fell. Total revenue decreased by 4.9 percent compared to last year, falling to $24.8 billion.

On August 16th during an earnings call, Target admitted its mistake. Target’s CFO, Michael Fiddelke, credited backlash to the pride collection as a significant contribution to Target’s negative “traffic and top line trends.” CEO Brian Cornell concurred, acknowledging that the pride campaign led to a “negative guest reaction.” He also mentioned other factors that may have contributed to Target’s unsatisfactory financial performance, including inflation and theft. Walmart on the other hand, saw sales increase 6.4 percent and beat expectations substantially in their second quarter, leading them to increase their anticipated profit forecast for the year.

As of this writing, the price of Target’s stock has fallen 20 percent since the start of the controversy, resulting in almost a $15 billion dollar decline in market value for the Minneapolis-based company, and has shown little signs of recovery. This led JP Morgan to downgrade Target for its stock’s “longest losing streak” in 23 years. The devastating loss also led American First Legal to sue Target on behalf of investor Brain Craig earlier in August, who holds 200 shares, arguing that Target misled shareholders and did not fulfill its obligations to them, instead occupying itself with advancing leftist agendas. Last week, Target’s chief growth officer, Christina Hennington indicated that Target may have learned its lesson in all of this, stating, “The reaction is a signal for us to pause, adapt and learn,” and Target plans to change things for next June.

Target, however, was not alone in its pride “festivities” as Kohl’s put out pride displays in their locations as well, receiving similar backlash from customers. They too featured LGBTQ onesies among other pride-themed merchandise. One user even tweeted, “Another Company needing Bud-lighting.” This brings us to the most famous brand that went “broke” by going “woke” over the summer—Bud Light—and the numbers show it all.

It all started when Anheuser-Busch, makers of America’s formerly most popular beer, Bud Light, thought it was a good idea to market its brand by partnering with Dylan Mulvaney—a man identifying as a woman—to celebrate his “365 days of girlhood.” Mulvaney posted a video April 1st of him promoting Bud Light while holding a special beer can sent to him by the company with his face printed on it. This was not intended as an April Fool’s joke. This caused Bud Light customers to question why the company would insert sexuality into its products, leading many to boycott the brand.

Like Target, Anheuser-Busch saw its stock plummet immediately following the negative response to the Mulvaney partnership. Within six weeks of Mulvaney’s viral post, the stock price fell nearly 25 percent compared to the same time in 2022, and by mid-June, Anheuser-Busch’s market value remained at that level, a $35 billion decrease from $134.5 billion to $99 billion. Over the same time frame, Bud Light’s competitors saw a boost. Miller Lite sales increased by 21.4 percent, and Coors Light saw a 25.8 percent increase. Bud Light was also booted from the pedestal as America’s No. 1 selling beer, with Modelo Especial taking the cake as the most-sold beer by early June.

After the Fourth of July, Bud Light’s popularity continued to drop, achieving the dismal title of 14th most popular beer. Bud Light practically paid customers over the July 4th weekend to drink their brand, offering $15 dollar rebates to customers who bought a 15-pack of Bud Light or Budweiser. Some 15-packs of Bud Light were being sold for less than $15, so the company basically gave out free beer, presumably to lessen the blow of its declining sales.

At the beginning of August, we saw the damage that promoting the LGBTQ agenda did to Anheuser-Busch’s earnings in its second-quarter report. In the months of April through June, its U.S. sales dropped by nearly 11 percent with total profit falling by nearly 30 percent, and the brand experienced a 34 percent decline in drink orders. On the flip side, sales for Molson Coors (the parent company of Miller Lite and Coors Lite) were 50 percent greater than Bud Light’s during the same quarter. Gavin Hattersley, CEO of Molson Coors, stated,

“Coors Light and Miller Lite are now 50 percent bigger than Bud Light by total industry dollars… Last year, Bud Light was bigger than both. Retailers are making space for our brands as demand increases.”

Worst of all, the boycotts of the once-iconic brand resulted in the company laying off hundreds of workers.

Now, according to a new survey from Deutsche Bank comparing results from August and July,

“The proportion of former Bud Light drinkers who say they are very unlikely to buy the brand in 3-6 months time has reduced from 18 percent to just 3 percent.”

However, they also found that 19 percent of beer drinkers, down from 21 percent in July, still said they would still not buy Bud Light. Evidence of Anheuser-Busch’s continuous unpopularity was discovered at the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally earlier this month, where the Budweiser booth was seen completely deserted. Although the demands for boycotts appear to be cooling off this August, and some die-hard customers may be returning to the beer, the brand’s negativity has likely left a permanent stain on the minds of consumers, which may take years to recover from.

And then we come to Disney. It’s no secret that Disney has been actively promoting progressive cultural values over the last decade and alienating Christians and conservatives from its fanbase. On Disney+ for instance, back in February of this year, The Proud Family cartoon featured an episode of kids demanding reparations for slavery through a musical number, and in 2022, an obtained video recording of the show’s executive producer, Latoya Raveneau, exposed her explicitly stating she’s pushing a “not-at-all-secret gay agenda” with the show, saying she sprinkles in “queerness” wherever she can.

This summer, Disney bore the fruit of pushing away customers. Disney’s Pixar released Elemental, an animated kid’s movie that includes a non-binary character, which flopped at its opening, raking in only $29.5 million. To put that in perspective, this was the second-worst opening in Pixar history. Other movies fumbled, including the remake of The Little Mermaid, Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny, and the remake of The Haunted Mansion.

Then Disney’s third-quarter report came out. According to Forbes,

“Disney+ subscriptions fell from 157.8 million worldwide to 146.1 million, a loss of 11.7 million — more than doubling last quarter’s record decline, and it included a decrease of 300,000 in the U.S. and Canada where subscribers fell to 46 million. It’s just the second time Disney+ has taken a hit in North America; last quarter was the first.”

Most of the decline in subscribers came from Disney+ Hotstar in India, where it lost 24 percent of subscribers largely due to Disney losing rights to a popular cricket league. However, India is still very much a traditional country, and it’s hard to believe Disney’s woke trend hasn’t gone unnoticed internationally, so it’s plausible some in India are also becoming weary of Disney’s progressive direction.

As of late, some are predicting a “Bud Light” scenario for Disney’s Snow White remake. The actress for Snow White, Rachel Zegler, made headlines over her recent comments about the original film, calling it “weird” and the film’s prince a “stalker.” There are concerns her negativity towards the classic film will tank the remake’s success at the box office, not to mention the fact that she revealed massive changes to the plot, most prominently that Snow White is “not going to be saved by the prince and she’s not going to be dreaming about true love.” Some are predicting that this situation, along with Disney’s new partnership to promote girls’ clothing with a gender-fluid influencer, may continue to hurt the company’s bottom line.

But it’s not just Target, Bud Light, and Disney. Countless other companies this summer have proven “wokeness” is not good for business, contrary to Mark Cuban’s take. Thousands of people protested outside Dodger’s stadium for hosting the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, a drag queen group that mocks the Catholic faith. Skittles sparked online backlash over its “Black trans lives matter” packaging along with more boycott calls. And there are many, many more examples.

We often don’t realize what we have until it’s taken away. Concerned parents, Christians, and Americans are waking up to the fact that once-beloved brands have become hostile to their values. But it doesn’t matter how big a corporation is. Ordinary God-fearing and family-loving people are choosing to stand for their values in large, unprecedented ways and measurably impacting corporations’ bottom lines. That’s what this summer has shown us.

I appreciate the words of Matt Fradd, who summed up what I believe many consumers were thinking as they engaged in boycotts this summer:

“Our primary purpose in doing this is not to make [companies] hurt financially, but to not participate in evil.”

It’s not about deepening the division in America or seeking revenge, as some may see it. It’s about concerned consumers uniting around Christian and family values that corporations have deemed “unprofitable” or “unimportant”—and actively doing something about their convictions by aligning their wallets with their hearts to choose alternatives.

The lesson companies should learn from the summer of 2023 is greater than “go woke, go broke.” The lesson is this: the myth that traditional values no longer play a large role in American life is busted. Moreover, shoppers, parents, Christians, conservatives, and everyday Americans are not simply standing against something, but they’re now striving toward something: a brighter future for our families established on the bedrock of the truths and values emanating ultimately from the gospel, which brings blessings to everyone. Anyone who tells you otherwise has been drinking too much Bud Light.

This article was originally published by the Minnesota Family Council.