Brewing up a storm
The gender pay gap has been an issue that hasn’t dropped off the news agenda for years now. We’ve seen everyone from leading news organisations to Hollywood production companies named and shamed for failing to pay women the same wage as their male counterparts. You can therefore understand why businesses might want to get involved in the debate and attempt to make a positive difference.
Craft brewer BrewDog decided to do exactly this by partnering with the Women’s Engineering Society and donating 20 per cent of its sales of its flagship beer, Punk IPA, for the next four weeks. A commendable campaign in theory. Sadly, the execution didn’t quite hit the mark.
Viral for the wrong reasons
To announce this campaign, BrewDog decided to rebrand its flagship product as Pink IPA including the slogan “Beer for Girls”. Anyone who is familiar with the uproar caused by the BIC For Her range of pens will already know how the internet reacted.
Within a matter of minutes, the story was trending on Twitter across the UK with the stunt branded “tone deaf’ by London Evening Standard and “sexist” by Daily Mail. BrewDog responded by explaining it was an ironic marketing stunt aiming to fight back against gender stereotypes – this is where the problem lies.
Hitting the right tone
All of the best campaigns rely on simplicity. They should be something that audiences can interact with and make a snap decision as to whether they want to support the call to action. Irony on the other hand is one of the more difficult tones to appreciate, especially through the written word. Just ask Alanis Morissette – the only thing ironic in her 1996 hit “Ironic” is that nothing she’s complaining about is an example of irony.
The brand got too carried away trying to live up to its “punk” ethos that it lost track of the commendable message it was trying to put across. This isn’t the first time either. Less than two years ago, the business was accused of mocking trans-gender people and the homeless with a stunt aiming to encourage investors.
Although business voice is an important aspect of any company, before rolling out a campaign, marketers should take a step back and contemplate exactly how this will go down. What are the objectives? What is the target audience? How do we want them to react? If the answers to these questions aren’t instantly clear, changes need to be made. Had BrewDog taken these steps, rather than being controversial to live up to its reputation, it may have managed to brew up the perfect storm. Instead, it has inadvertently started drowning in complaints.