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.