marketing opinion

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

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.

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.

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?

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.

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.

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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