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Advertising Age reports that Alissa Heinerscheid, the Bud Light marketing VP who took a lot of heat for her attempt to broaden the brand's appeal, has taken a leave of absence.  The story says she will be replaced by Budweiser global marketing VP Todd Allen.

The move comes weeks after Bud Light came in for significant criticism after it looked to broaden the brand's appeal by sending a swag bag to a transgender "influencer" named Dylan Mulvaney, who took to social media to promote the brand.  (Which, as it happens, is exactly what "influencers" are suppose to do.)

Heinerscheid apparently was perceived as making things worse when she said that "Bud Light had been kind of a brand of fratty, kind of out of touch humor, and it was really important that we had another approach."  The "fratty" contingent took offense at this, and responded by calling for boycotts and posting videos with people shooting guns at Bud Light packages.

KC's View:

I want to get past the debate about whether Bud Light was right or wrong.  It is a fair argument that since Bud Light is a brand in decline, the company needed to reach beyond its traditional demographic base.  It also is fair to say that maybe they should've calculated possible blowback from reaching out to a demographic so different from its traditional base.  And, I think it is fair to say that some of the people who were the most vehement and virulent in their negative responses are transphobic cretins.  (Too far?  Too soon?)

My response to Heinerscheid's "leave of absence" is that it proves one thing - that the powers that be at Bud Light are gutless invertebrates.

Reality check:  Heinerscheid didn't make the decision to widen the customer base on her own.  There were meetings.  Lots of meetings.  The leadership at Bud Light, Anheuser Busch and their outside marketing consultants pondered this ad nauseam, trying to figure out how to reverse the brand's decline.

Debate all you want about the wisdom of the strategic marketing initiative.  This was a company decision, and Heinerscheid's "leave of absence" is all about using her as a scapegoat.  This is utter B.S., especially after Anheuser Busch CEO Brendan Whitworth posted a letter that was so mush-mouthed and non-specific about the controversy that it was hard to know what he was talking about.  (If Heinerscheid was the actual author of that letter, I'm happy to reconsider my opinion.)

I think ineffective leaders who turn their people into fall guys are detestable.  

Take the heat. Or get out of the kitchen. Or, in this case, the brewery.