BrewDog is a craft beer brewery founded in 2007 in Scotland by James Watt and Martin Dickie. The brand has exploded, and BrewDog now has breweries all over Europe and Latin America. The company has often been known for it's 'punk' essence, which has gotten them into trouble in the past. Mostly, however, that trouble has been due to their increasingly ambitious ABV, or alcohol by volume. Most beers have an ABV between 4–6%. Many types of beer, including such favorites as IPAs, stouts, porters, and Belgians, can reach up to the 10–12%. But in 2010, BrewDog brewed a beer called "End of History" that had a 55% ABV, causing consternation across the beer drinking world. This time, it's not their exploding ABV that's causing trouble. It's their branding.
On Tuesday, the official BrewDog Twitter account tweeted this ad:
People were not amused. At all:
This boiled my p**s when I read it. TBH I'm just not a fan of the brewery founders, this uproar is probably what they were hoping for.— Tracy Saunders (@tracyasaunders) March 6, 2018
We didn’t ask for pink beer— Lisa Trotter (@LisTrott) March 6, 2018
We didn’t ask for less noisy crisps
We didn’t ask for pink tool sets
What we want is:
Pockets in clothing
The ability to occupy an entire single train seat without trespassing knees
Zero unwanted lecherous attention
However, if one actually reads the article announcing the beer, they'd see this information...
At BrewDog, we have always believed that beer is for everyone, and equality is a fundamental right. So today we are launching a clarion call to end the discrimination of gender pay inequality. In the UK men earn on average 20% more than women. And that’s not ok.
So ahead of International Women's Day this Thursday, we are launching Pink IPA. A beer for women. A beer for equality.
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 article continues:
For the next four weeks, we are offering Pink IPA. Inside the bottle, it is the exact same beer as Punk IPA. But on the outside, it looks different. This is a reflection of the situation around the world relating to gender imbalance – Pink IPA is our effort to raise awareness of the current, unwelcome, status quo. At BrewDog we are committed to a workplace free from inequality of any sort.
To reference the gender pay gap, 20% of the proceeds from Punk IPA and Pink IPA sold over the next 4 weeks will be donated to charities that fight inequality and support women. In the UK, we’re supporting the Women’s Engineering Society. In America, the pay gap is 19%, and the charity receiving that portion of proceeds will be 9to5. Read more about our charity partners and find the gender pay gap in your country here.
What’s more, people who identify as female will be able to pick up Pink IPA in any BrewDog bar for 20% less. The beer will launch in our bars this Thursday 8th March to coincide with International Women’s Day.
Huh. So the label is meant to be satirical, and the point is that the beer on the inside is exactly the same as their normal beer. Not to mention the fact that a fair amount of the proceeds are going to worthy causes.
Still, many didn't appreciate BrewDog's version of satire:
also a quote from the article - 'Lazily targeting the female market with sub-par products designed by expensive research are inherently patronising. ' you realise this is pretty much what you are doing.— Georgina Breeze (@georgina_breeze) March 6, 2018
Oh dear. This is like when teenagers discover sarcasm. Marketing pink beer at women in order to call out other people marketing pink beer at women isn't "satirical". It's marketing pink beer at women.— Libby (@CaptainLibatron) March 6, 2018
Calling out lazy female targeting, with more lazy female targeting.— Ollie Salman (@ollie_salman) March 6, 2018
Many assumed that men came up with this campaign:
This is what happens when men come up with advertising campaigns aimed at women. You have really missed the mark on this one BrewDog!— Matt Gee (@Mattrgee) March 6, 2018
Doing something ironically is still doing it. Instead of making a new patronizing label “satirically,” keep the original and donate 20% / give women a 20% discount if you want to make a difference. Also HIRE MORE FEMALE BREWERS ❗️(and clearly a more female marketing staff)— frida khaled (@Taras_twatter) March 6, 2018
@BrewDog this has the right motivations but the wrong execution. You have lots of supportive shareholders who are female scientists & engineers. They could have been involved, collaborated and a simple engagement with those supporters could have given you a much stronger campaign— Dr Heather Doran (@hapsci) March 6, 2018
Oh dear god. Hire some women. Lots of women. In key positions. Executive-level, decision-making positions.— Mark Dexter (@RealMarkDexter) March 6, 2018
Do it fast.
Do it now.
When someone's job is to get people to buy a product, and they use an image as marketing, the image needs to convey as much as possible in one glance. This doesn't say "satire" to me. It just says "why hire women to market to women when we can just talk down to them instead."— Bwee 💙 (@saybwee) March 6, 2018
But a Tuesday tweet by James Watt revealed that an all-female marketing team came up with the idea for the Pink IPA:
Finally, Andy Davies calmly and succinctly explained the problem with the campaign:
It is 20% off for “people who identify as a woman” which is great, even better than 20% off for woman. Just think the sarcasm wasn’t driven very well. Hence the social media storm. In a shop next to all other bottles. The sarcasm would be lost.— Andy Davies (@pandybear55) March 6, 2018
And he went on to ask...
What brewdog are doing though, is doing something, when people have been confused, they’ve posted to clarify. More than most large scale brands would do. The proceeds of what i would guess is their most successful beer, 20% over the next month goes to equality charities..— Andy Davies (@pandybear55) March 6, 2018
From where I'm sitting, it's not the campaign that's the issue — it's the rollout. If they had talked about the satire on their announcement tweet, acknowledged the women who came up with it, and perhaps clarified the label to make the satire obvious when the beer is just sitting in a store, it would be a whole different ballgame.