When something is a hot topic, it really is hot, and any move by a brand will be pounced upon eagerly by the media. And this was the fate of hipster beer company BrewDog who attempted to add some humour and fun to this year’s International Women’s Day.
As an office full of women, we’ve all been fully behind the #metoo and #timesup movements that have been making waves across the media this year, we’re so non-gender stereotypical that we swapped our bathroom towels in the office (pink now in the boys', turquoise in the girls') and we champion women through many of the campaigns we support and organise. So, needless to say, we’d be the first to criticise a brand that we felt was sexist. But, after much debate we don’t feel like this about BrewDog.
So, what did they do? BrewDog addressed the gender pay gap by releasing a ‘new’ Pink IPA on International Women’s Day and sold it for a fifth cheaper in bars, tweeting:
Now sarcasm is always a bit dangerous for those that don’t get it, us Brits are infamously good at it but it doesn’t mean everyone is. There were certainly a whole hoard of angry tweets following this one from BrewDog which gained so much momentum that pretty much all the nationals wrote about it too. Judging this campaign solely on how many people it reached, BrewDog’s risky move was a PR success, but if you’re not an advocate of ‘there’s no such thing as bad PR’ then the success was less tangible.
Our first thought when discussing this in the office was, who are BrewDog’s audience? They are predominantly 30+ with a healthy disposable income affording them lumberjack shirts, nose rings and enough smashed avocado to cover a whole sourdough. Now we’re not claiming to know this audience inside out but we’re pretty sure that they would take BrewDog’s pink offering in the tone intended. As for everyone else? What do BrewDog care if they’re successfully communicating with their intended audience already?
And that’s what PR is all about, communicating your brand to your audience and we think in this instance that BrewDog did it well despite the backlash. And as well as that, they also achieved a huge amount of coverage; raising the brand’s profile and introducing them to new audiences. Another win for this campaign in our eyes was the 20% of profits that BrewDog donated that month to UK charities helping to fight the gender pay gap, oh, and anyone identifying as female could get 20% off on their Pink IPA too. No one can argue with a cheap beer campaign.
There are things that would have made this campaign sit more comfortably with the mainstream media such as clearer messaging about the charity donation, not making the bottle or name pink and not being sarcastic. There is an argument here for a more simplistic and therefore a more effective campaign – there were quite a few comments about jokes not being funny if you need to explain them! But then on the flip side, if BrewDog did want to only speak to their audience, and they were confident in their tone of voice, then none of the above is relevant and they have achieved their goal.