A Household Name

A lot of what The Scot­tish Brew­ery does only makes sense when it occurs to you that they have one aim: to become a house­hold name.

They sim­ply don’t care if they’re loved or loathed, as long as they can break out of the beer geek ghet­to and become the kind of brand that ‘nor­mals’ have heard of. Their eyes are fixed firm­ly on the goal.

It explains their part­ner­ship with Tesco, which oth­er­wise com­pro­mis­es their ‘punk’ brand, but gets their prod­ucts and logo seen along­side Carls­berg et al; it explains their atten­tion-at-any-cost approach to PR stunts;  and it explains this needy tweet which emerged at the height of the Dia­geogate PR tri­umph yes­ter­day, when their sto­ry was trend­ing world­wide:

We have mixed feel­ings on this. On the one hand, what they’re doing to get where they want to be is pret­ty much con­stant­ly irri­tat­ing; on the oth­er, we’ve yet to see a British ‘craft brew­ery’ crossover into main­stream con­scious­ness. If they make it, it might be a good thing in lots of ways, as long as they don’t pull the lad­der up behind them.

31 thoughts on “A Household Name”

  1. They do seem to cre­ate mixed emo­tions in every­one I know! I love one or two of their beers, the rest are inter­est­ing but noth­ing more. I despise their atten­tion-seek­ing mar­ket­ing and PR stunts and how they are so hyp­o­crit­i­cal in pre­tend­ing to be dif­fer­ent while sell­ing out to huge cor­po­ra­tions. I also admire the way that they’ve built a mul­ti-mil­lion pound busi­ness in a few short years and have opened many Britons eyes to awe­some craft beer (not necce­sar­i­ly theirs).

    Def­i­nite­ly a love-hate rela­tion­ship!

  2. I got stuck in the loft once… I was feel­ing smug, I would­n’t have to do the wash­ing up, eat my greens, go to school… and then it dawned on me that noone gave a sh1t. I was left high and rea­son­ably dry. The moral of the sto­ry? don’t burn your bridges, I mean don’t pull the lad­der up behind you!

  3. Agree with Rob, I love to hate those boys!

    I hate their gen­er­al brand but can’t deny it’s appeal to some peo­ple. The OTT mar­ket­ing is irri­tat­ing but unde­ni­ably effec­tive as we all reg­u­lar­ly talk about them. They are a ‘sell out’, but can any­one whole heart­ed­ly say they would­n’t do the same in their shoes? I hate the thought of my com­pa­ny ‘sell­ing out’ but can’t say I would­n’t con­sid­er some­thing that would allow me to do more of what I real­ly want­ed to do, and mon­ey allows you that free­dom.

    I don’t think that they will pull the lad­der up behind them as they do sup­port lots of small brew­eries in their pub chain, which is all great for the indus­try.

  4. For my two cents worth, this has real­ly noth­ing to do with Brew­Dog. It’s about a big busi­ness allow­ing an eth­ic to reside with­in its mid­dle man­age­ment that they decid­ed to threat­en an inde­pen­dent body putting on an awards show and attack a com­peti­tor through doing some­thing on the path to fraud. That Brew­Dog then reacts as they do has zip­po to do with the event.

    1. It does have to do with Brew­dog in that had any­one else been select­ed as win­ner, Dia­geo prob­a­bly would­n’t have react­ed in the way that they did

          1. Nei­ther. Deserved to be the sub­ject of an effort to fal­si­fy the grant­i­ng of an award that car­ries mar­ket­place ben­e­fit to the par­ty who lob­bied to be grant­ed the award instead of the actu­al win­ner, Brew­Dog.

            No one is sug­gest­ing that Brew­Dog did­n’t win the award. No one is sug­gest­ing they are not irri­tat­ing. These are irrel­e­vant points unless you are sug­gest­ing that the irri­tat­ing are due a sec­ondary lev­el of pro­pri­ety. It would actu­al­ly be inter­est­ing to learn if under UK law this might qual­i­fy as civ­il fraud giv­en the attempt to usurp the ben­e­fits asso­ci­at­ed with the award which were Brew­Dog’s alone to receive.

  5. If you sell your prod­ucts in Sains­bury’s you’re as punk as Jamie Oliv­er’

    My per­son­al favourite Brew­Dog quote, writ­ten by Edin­burgh beer retail­er James Wroebel.

  6. Crit­i­cis­ing them for sell­ing their prod­ucts through Sains­bury’s and Tesco is effec­tive­ly crit­i­cis­ing them for being suc­cess­ful. It’s that tedious arti­sanal snob­bery that sees the only worth­while prod­ucts as those made by folk who won’t deal with “the man”.

    It’s very hard to see what their ulti­mate objec­tive is, and I doubt whether real­ly they know either. I tend to think they gen­uine­ly believe they are being rad­i­cal and break­ing the mould – I don’t think it’s just a cyn­i­cal exer­cise.

    But it would­n’t entire­ly sur­prise me a few years down the line to see a Ben & Jerry’s/Innocent Smooth­ies style cor­po­rate sell-out. Which is what usu­al­ly hap­pens to suc­cess­ful, edgy start-up brands in every indus­try.

    1. Just to be clear, we’re not say­ing it’s wrong for them to be in Tesco, just that it’s at odds with a lot of their mes­sag­ing, e.g. rants about “cor­po­rate freaks” like Dia­geo.

    2. yes, if they weren’t say­ing “we hate The Man” I would­n’t be sigh­ing at them for sell­ing to Tesco etc, it’s their posi­tion that is lead­ing (most) peo­ple to call them on it, rather than an arti­sanal snob­bery, to my mind (not that arti­sanal snob­bery does­n’t exist, but I don’t think it’s the key cause here).

      I think yr right about the cor­po­rate sell-out in the future, although they’ll have to make sure they don’t sell too much “equi­ty for punks” first…

  7. I was sur­prised when the tweets start­ed com­ing round yes­ter­day how many peo­ple took it as an oppor­tu­ni­ty to put the boot into brew­dog.

  8. Alan, of course it has to do with Brew­Dog, but it has many aspects. For me it is par­tic­u­lar­ly inter­est­ing how it shows the pow­er of the social media with its surge of tweets dur­ing a few after­noon hours.

  9. Are you sug­gest­ing that Brew­Dog some­how deserved this? I agree that the reac­tion post inci­dent is typ­i­cal but that is not the sto­ry. The only new thing here is the attempt­ed cor­rup­tion by Dia­gio staff.

    1. This post is pret­ty tan­gen­tial to Dia­geogate – it’s just that it elicit­ed the Tweet we quot­ed which we thought pro­vid­ed an insight into Brew­dog’s busi­ness plan.

      Just because Brew­dog are annoy­ing cer­tain­ly does­n’t make Dia­geo’s busi­ness prac­tices any less wor­ry­ing or wor­thy of scruti­ny. It was right that Dia­geo were trend­ing rather than Brew­dog, and right that the BBC explained in detail the rela­tion­ship between Dia­geo (anony­mous cor­po­ra­tion) and spe­cif­ic brands such as Guin­ness. Again, ‘brand val­ues’ (cama­raderies, good times, fel­low­ship) at odds with com­pa­ny behav­iour.

      1. Fair enough. I don’t see the moment has hav­ing those sort of fine lines. Of the two drinks firms, I know who was more arro­gant and self-serv­ing.

  10. Astute obser­va­tions all, but I would add anoth­er: The move into super­mar­kets is also about price posi­tion­ing in the UK craft sec­tor, as con­sis­tent with the strat­e­gy in their bars. Super­mar­ket avail­able craft imports like Goose Island IPA or Sier­ra Neva­da Pale retail at a con­sis­tent­ly high­er price point than Punk IPA.
    Equal­ly, Brew­dog trum­pets Nog­neo, Mikeller and Stone (to name a few) in the UK: between duty and import these will always be more expen­sive prod­ucts than Brew­dog’s com­pa­ra­ble offer­ings.
    The cre­ation of a “Craft Con­scious­ness” in the UK is vital to them as they har­ness the aspi­ra­tion that sur­rounds pre­mi­um import prod­ucts, then under­cut them. Its a dou­ble win but it requires them to be the gate­keep­ers of “good” beer. Wit­ness the beer geeks who grum­ble about the vari­able qual­i­ty of punk whilst buy­ing slabs of it in cans.
    I think this is also reflect­ed in the atti­tude they have towards oth­er UK brew­ers. Those that receive the BD impri­matur are gen­er­al­ly not com­pet­i­tive with them, Ker­nel for instance. Those that are tend to be sub­ject­ed to the usu­al crit­i­cisms of being too bor­ing, too big etc.
    If this pat­tern con­tin­ues I sus­pect the lad­der may well come up behind them.

    1. You make it sound like there was no craft beer on-trade giv­ing space to for­eign brew­ers in the UK before BD, when of course, sev­er­al large cities had craft beer bars well before BD start­ed open­ing places.

      I also won­der if they feel a sense of irony about see­ing com­pet­i­tive­ly priced import­ed US beers on the same shelves in super­mar­kets, when their own strat­e­gy was to take the US on and build mar­ket share for their brands there. Anec­do­tal­ly, I’d have said SNPA and Goose Island IPA have trav­elled to our mar­ket bet­ter than Punk etc head­ing in the oppo­site direc­tion.

      Of course, these are boys in a hur­ry. Still, Mar­tyn Cor­nel­l’s obser­va­tions about Dia­geo being best­ed by a social-media savvy, nim­ble machine sound spot-on to me.

      1. Sid- There’s no ques­tion that there were pre­ex­ist­ing oasis’ of imports. I can’t help but feel, how­ev­er, that a key part of BD’s plan (in the UK) is pro­mot­ing the idea of ‘craft’ beer (par­tic­u­lar­ly imports), then sell­ing their own craft prod­ucts cheap­er. I’ll keep their recent avail­abil­i­ty at Makro in mind when they release their next Quadru­ple Mild served from a live por­poise.

  11. I think they are already a house­hold name of sorts. They turn up on Jeff Ran­dall on sky news reg­u­lar­ly, The punk is often dis­count­ed in Sains­burys, my Mum has heard of them and the cans of punk are nice if you like that sort of thing. Plen­ty of trendy peo­ple seem to like their bars and are hap­py to pay over the odds for their offer. They also make mon­ey turn­ing a healthy prof­it, the size of which will gen­er­ate a degree of jeal­ousy in their indus­try. They piss some peo­ple off, excite oth­ers. How well this is planned I don’t know. They can afford to piss some off, oth­ers that might affect their own sup­ply chain they can’t. They are not nasty about Tesco but are about Coors and that does indi­cate a degree of self aware­ness in what they are doing

    1. Yes, they’re get­ting there. Pete Brown wrote a cou­ple of years back about his mum hav­ing heard of them, too.

      Don’t think they’re more cyn­i­cal oth­er busi­ness peo­ple, but they cer­tain­ly have a plan, and a com­pet­i­tive instinct. (Quite “The Man”-like.)

  12. Mudge – I’m always pleased to see Holt’s & Lees & Tim­o­thy Tay­lor & Williams Bros in the super­mar­ket, to name but a few. The only rea­son I feel any dif­fer­ent about Brew­Dog is that their mar­ket­ing is based on them being dif­fer­ent from all the estab­lished brew­eries, and on the idea that they’re in some way rad­i­cal/­counter-cul­tur­al/al­ter­na­tive/un­der the radar. Which, at this stage, is clear­ly non­sense. They’re start­ing to remind me of Peter Cook’s take-off of Gre­ta Gar­bo, hir­ing an open car and a mega­phone to tell the world that she want­ed to be alone.

    If they make it, it might be a good thing in lots of ways, as long as they don’t pull the lad­der up behind them.

    Unfor­tu­nate­ly there’s plen­ty of evi­dence to sug­gest that this is pre­cise­ly what they’d do (exam­ple).

    they do sup­port lots of small brew­eries in their pub chain

    That’s one way of look­ing at it. As far as I can tell they sell lots of bot­tles from small Amer­i­can brew­eries, and a few from a hand­ful of Scan­di­na­vian and Dutch brew­ers. Noth­ing from Britain, and noth­ing from any­thing even slight­ly like the usu­al sus­pects in Europe (the Trap­pists, Affligem, Huyghe, Bosteels, etc, etc – per­haps because you can get all of those else­where, mak­ing sil­ly pric­ing less viable).

    Love the beer, though. If they could just calm down a bit and get back to mak­ing good beer…

    1. The par­tic­u­lar brew­ery that sprang to mind was Hawk­shead. To see their beer on the shelves of Tesco, you think “aren’t they doing well?” not “they have sold out”.

    2. If they could just calm down a bit and get back to mak­ing good beer…”

      That, in essence, is what I pas­sion­ate­ly believe in doing day-in day-out. If every sin­gle brew­er out there did noth­ing but con­cen­trate on mak­ing good beer then the UK ale indus­try would be in a far health­i­er state.

      I com­plete­ly under­stand the need for brew­eries to devote resources to mar­ket­ing, PR etc etc but if the brew­er is not capa­ble or com­pe­tent enough to pro­duce good beer day-in day-out then they are in the wrong busi­ness.

      In case you had­n’t noticed I’m rather opin­ion­at­ed, I’m seri­ous­ly start­ing my own blog to rant about this sort of thing but I’m too busy brew­ing good beer day-in day-out haha ;P

      *tongue out of cheek*

      1. *con­sid­er­ing start­ing my own blog*

        I think I might do an SH and alien­ate as many peo­ple as I please if I wrote down all my thoughts on beer, brew­ing and the UK beer indus­try,

        1. And this proves how bad I am at work­ing blogs… I meant to say that that is the rea­son I’m not start­ing one, I’d have to sani­tise it too much!

          Sure­ly there should be a way to edit com­ments??

  13. For me this is more about Dia­geo dirty tricks then any­thing else. The fact that it was against a brew­ery who are for all their faults huge­ly PR & social media savvy just meant that the whole thing was always going to get blown up into a big sto­ry. Dia­geo picked on the wrong brew­ery.

    Does­n’t make me more inclined to change my opin­ions of Brew­dog, but it does make me less inclined towards Dia­geo as a busi­ness.

  14. I am pret­ty sure that the Sex Pis­tols, Clash, Ramones, etc, all had record­ing and dis­tri­b­u­tion rela­tion­ships with multi­na­tion­al com­pa­nies. Even Crass did not take the “punk” eth­ic quite so far as to not allow their records to be sold in shops.

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