Thought for the Day: Win-Win For BrewDog?

Cartoon: waiter, to customer -- "Don't worry, sir, it's an ironic fly."

BrewDog today announced the launch of Pink IPA, a product identical to their standard Punk IPA except for a bright pink label, and the fact that it will be 20 per cent cheaper for women in BrewDog bars, in reference to the gender pay gap.

Satir­i­cal­ly dubbed Beer for Girls, Pink IPA is BrewDog’s clar­i­on call to close the gen­der pay gap in the UK and around the world and to expose sex­ist mar­ket­ing to women, par­tic­u­lar­ly with­in the beer indus­try. This is our overt par­o­dy on the failed, tone-deaf cam­paigns that some brands have attempt­ed in order to attract women.

The col­lec­tive reac­tion to this, it’s prob­a­bly fair to say, aver­ages out to some­thing like a pained groan.

Crit­i­cism ranges from sug­ges­tions of rank cyn­i­cism – they knew this would annoy peo­ple, thus gen­er­at­ing cov­er­age – to a sense that Brew­Dog (to whom the nick­name BroDog has occa­sion­al­ly been applied) is the equiv­a­lent of “that lad from your A-lev­el pol­i­tics class who makes ‘get back in the kitchen’ jokes but it’s OK because he’s being ‘iron­ic’ and is actu­al­ly a ‘fem­i­nist’”. (@alys_key) It’s juve­nile, it’s tone deaf, it’s an attempt to co-opt a seri­ous cam­paign to sell beer. And so on.

Now, from our point of view, the idea itself doesn’t seem so dread­ful even if the exe­cu­tion is ter­ri­bly clum­sy. Yes, it might be time for them to admit that a very large, very suc­cess­ful busi­ness is not a great vehi­cle for social com­men­tary or satire – the phrase, we believe, is ‘punch­ing down’ – but we sus­pect this is intend­ed sin­cere­ly, or as sin­cere­ly as a mar­ket­ing stunt can ever be. We believe there are peo­ple in man­age­ment at Brew­Dog, which remem­ber is very much more than Watt & Dick­ie these days, who care about these issues and real­ly are try­ing to find a way to use the company’s clout for good.

But those who are more trou­bled by this than us (and we don’t ques­tion their right to be) find them­selves in a quandary. Do they ignore it, thus giv­ing Brew­Dog a pass? Or do they call it out, thus giv­ing Brew­Dog pub­lic­i­ty?

We’ve long sus­pect­ed that BrewDog’s mar­ket­ing strat­e­gy is to embed itself into the minds of peo­ple out­side the beer bub­ble because that’s the only way to make sense of some its more sur­pris­ing deci­sions. We dare­say they’d have pre­ferred to go viral today because the reac­tion to this stunt was pos­i­tive, but they’ll prob­a­bly cope with the hurt feel­ings by reflect­ing on how they trend­ed on Twit­ter, got par­o­died by oth­er mon­ster brands, and were the focus of com­ment after com­ment after com­ment in the glob­al main­stream.

To put that anoth­er way, peo­ple might be say­ing, “Brew­Dog – what a bunch of wankers!”, but at least they’re say­ing Brew­Dog, over and over again.

7 thoughts on “Thought for the Day: Win-Win For BrewDog?”

  1. Unless, like with me as it relates to Brew­Dog (or Sam Adams or Rogue or Stone for that mat­ter), part of the mut­ter­ing of the name include skip­ping their beer myself and dis­suad­ing oth­ers by point­ing them to beers more inter­est­ing than char­ac­ter-brand­ed inter­na­tion­al craft.

  2. It’s inter­est­ing that they didn’t declare it satir­i­cal on the bot­tles, or on the mass emails they sent out today.

    Almost like they want­ed to upset peo­ple and then point them to the web page where it makes the satire claim.

    For me per­son­al­ly, as with the thing about Stone, I real­ly buy there beers any­more because my tastes have changed and i’ve moved on to oth­er beers which I feel tastes loads bet­ter.

  3. It is clunky. My part­ner, who, as a mak­er of com­e­dy pro­grammes, knows satire, has sworn her­self off DPC, one of her favourites, as a result of this. If you feel you have to add the word ‘satir­i­cal’, your satire has failed, and this was not the mar­ket­ing cam­paign for failed satire.

    Find­ing it hard to put this cogent­ly, but if this kind of issue is con­sid­ered ripe for par­o­dy, does any­body in the indus­try real­ly get it at all?

  4. Liv­ing in a rur­al craft beer desert, Brew­Dog beers in the local Tesco express are a high­light for me unless I shell out for deliv­ery charges from mail order sup­pli­ers. And when I get into a city I know what to expect from a Brew­Dog bar. So I’m not like­ly to boy­cott them. On the oth­er hand, I real­ly do think that they enjoy a bit of hype and con­tro­ver­sy. Maybe that was punk in the ear­ly days but now it all seems rather cyn­i­cal­ly stage man­aged. I quite like their beers but I don’t real­ly like their style.

  5. It’s hard to be anti-estab­lish­ment when you’ve become part of the estab­lish­ment; that’s the issue Brew­Dog faces in pret­ty much every­thing they do these days. What once was edgy and dar­ing is now just, well, meh. We all know what they’re try­ing to do; per­son­al­ly, I don’t feel moved by it either way to say any­thing oth­er than this.
    Still like some of the beers, though.

  6. Maybe that was punk in the ear­ly days but now it all seems rather cyn­i­cal­ly stage man­age

    It real­ly wasn’t ‘punk’ at any time at all – it’s not as if BD start­ed out as strug­gling indie nobod­ies who made it big because they stuck it to the Man but the kids under­stood. The real­i­ty of BD was always a com­bi­na­tion of good recipes, tech­ni­cal skill and big mon­ey – they were aim­ing for ubiq­ui­ty from day one. The ‘punk’ style con­sist­ed main­ly of rip­ping off Stone’s Arro­gant Bas­tard mar­ket­ing and using the word ‘punk’ a lot, and even the ear­ly scan­dals and rows (with CAMRA, with Port­man) couldn’t have been more stage-man­aged if they’d been on Made in Chelsea.

    They used to make some great beer, though. (Yes, I was into Brew­Dog before they were cool…)

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