One of Aesop’s Fables concerns a dog with a bone in its mouth.

As it passes a stream it looks down and notices its own reflection, it thinks it’s another dog with another bone.

It wants the other bone so it opens its mouth to bark at the other dog.

As it does, the bone it’s holding falls into the stream, so not only did it not get the illusory bone it lost the bone it had.

We think that’s a childishly simple tale, no one would believe an illusion and end up losing what they had.

But that is just what marketing people do, take recent events at Anheuser-Busch.

Budweiser has consistently been one of the biggest selling beers in America.

It was launched in 1876 and is traditionally advertised at the Superbowl with footage of huge Clydesdale horses pulling a brewery dray.

It’s image is patriotic, eagles and stars & stripes, it sponsors sports from baseball, to NFL, to basketball, to NASCAR; on its website it lists its CEO, Brendon Whitworth, as having served in the Marine Corps and the CIA.

So this is a proudly old-fashioned, patriotic brand, and its audience is people who respect those values.

Budweiser is so much part of the culture that Americans simply refer to it as ‘BUD’.

In 1982, Anheuser-Busch launched a low-calorie variant called Bud Light.

This was meant to appeal to younger drinkers, who cared about their weight more than traditional Bud drinkers did.

Now to the Aesop’s Fable part: Bud Light had a VP of marketing, Alissa Heinerscheid, who had an MBA in marketing from the Wharton School.

Bud Light sales were down, she decided the brand needed to go after a younger market.

She announced a partnership with an online transgender influencer, Dylan Mulvaney, she sent her a case of Bud Light with Mulvaney’s face printed on the cans, which she featured on her online show.

Sales immediately dropped 17% and the share price fell by $6 BILLION. What went wrong?

It was marketing’s version of Aesop’s Fable.

Firstly, barking at an illusory dog: assuming that young people will switch to Bud Light just because an online influencer holds a can of the product is pretty patronising.

Secondly, upmarket young people are mainly drinking imported beers, not domestic.

Thirdly, young people don’t drink beer at the rate of older blue-collar drinkers so, even if the audience was there, it would be tiny by comparison.

Fourthly, ignoring the people currently drinking Budweiser (which they all call BUD).

It’s not smart to ignore your existing customers.

Fifthly, the Pareto principle: a minority of your customers consume the majority of your product; while youngsters are sipping a single beer, older guys have finished a six-pack.

Sixthly, it’s at least twice as hard to get a new customer as it is to retain an existing customer, that’s what CRM is all about.

So you’ll need two drinkers to replace every one you’ve lost, and each new drinker will need to drink twice as much just to stay even.

So how come Heinerscheid didn’t know all those things, she’s got an MBA in marketing?

At an emergency meeting Anheuser-Busch replaced Heinerscheid with someone who has extensive experience in the brewing industry.

They haven’t got an MBA in marketing from the Wharton School, so they’re less likely to ignore the existing customers.

They won’t drop the bone they’ve got trying to get one that isn’t there.