Pale ale company attempted to combat sexism through a new campaign... It didn't go to plan
There's nothing funnier than a joke that calls itself an "overt parody". Nothing.
Ahead of International Women's Day, Scottish brewing company Brewdog decided to temporarily rebrand one of their signature products, Punk IPA to make a statement on gender inequality.
Explaining the decision in a press release, the company said: "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", before going on to point out that in the UK men earn an average of 20% more than women. "And that's not ok."
So fair enough. They made a statement on equal pay. There's nothing questionable about that. This is where it gets blurry, because as a way of commenting on this injustice, the company switched the U for an I, replaced the IPA's blue label with a pink one and stamped on the side "BEER FOR GIRLS".
Putting aside that one huge error in judgement, i.e. the exact definition of girls, which implies that they are the only beer on the market targeted towards underage drinking, the controversy emerged somewhere in the ironic area of this concept.
The pale ale had not been changed. The flavours and alcoholic content were the exact same, just the label was different. These weren't the less crunchy, "lady-friendly" Doritos. It was the same beer, but satirically advertised as one exclusively for women.
Aiming to "expose the sexist marketing to women, particularly within the beer industry", in the statement they went on to say, "This is our overt parody on the failed, tone-deaf campaigns that some brands have attempted in order to attract women."
"Lazily targeting the female market with sub-par products designed by expensive research are inherently patronising. Depicting women in wholly unacceptable ways on labels is something we do not condone, and creating concepts that undermine women’s ability to enjoy beer (ANY beer) is both short sighted and restricts progression."
Noting that for the next four weeks, the proceeds would be donated to charities that fight inequality and support women, during that same period people who identify as women would be able to buy Pink IPA for 20% less than men.
This seemed like a progressive statement in the beer industry. The feedback in the comment section of their website was positive, with one commenter going as far as to say that they were a "proud investor."
But there's one question here: Why on earth would a commercial entity willingly put a comment section on their website?
Easy. Because when Twitter blows up, you can claim that the feedback is 100% positive somewhere else.
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
"Pink IPA - Beer for MEN!" would probably get this point across better.
— Lassi Vapaakallio (@LassiVPK) March 6, 2018
"Beer for everyone" probably does it even better though?
— Sarah Mullen (@sarahwylie1) March 6, 2018
Everything about this is wrong. I hope the beer is good. #notsarcasm
— Lucy Corne (@LucyCorne) March 6, 2018
When do men get 'beer for boys'? pic.twitter.com/BRmHNAb51c
— Rachel Auty (@marketerach) March 6, 2018
The criticism went on and on, with the vast majority of the negativity coming from female users, while ironically enough, the male users coming out in praise of the idea ended up "mansplaining" to female marketers how advertising campaigns worked:
I believe (know actually) you are vastly overestimating the amount of thought and planning that goes into things like these.
— Mariano (@Mariano_BAms) March 6, 2018
I work in marketing, I really am not.
— Georgina Breeze (@georgina_breeze) March 6, 2018
Yes, there is something deeply ironic about running a campaign that fights gender inequality, but gets only the support of overtly sexist people.
Obviously the campaign had erred slightly. The original Tweet had declared: "This is not ‘beer for girls’. This is beer for equality."
Maybe the naysayers needed to have this explained to them. So Brewdog posted again, but with a sarcasm hashtag.
— BrewDog (@BrewDog) March 6, 2018
It didn't work.
If you felt the need to add a #sarcasm hash tag, the alarm bells should have been ringing already.
— Gavin Gillingham (@art_begall) March 6, 2018
Fortunately there was a "girl" at hand to reiterate why it was wrong:
.Girl here 🙋
Your label being pink isn't a problem, the fact it actually spells BEER FOR GIRLS is. It'll definitely keep me from ordering it cause of, u know, argumentativeness & self respect. I do hope it's just a badly-accomplished fake.
Give me back my blue-labeled Punk IPA
— Camille (@irishthrills) March 6, 2018
Commenting on the controversy, Sarah Warman, Brewdog's Global Head of Marketing told JOE:
"We always anticipated that some people might not immediately appreciate the irony of Pink IPA but that did not deter us in our mission to spark a conversation about the gender pay gap. Pink IPA is clearly an over-the-top ridiculing of the types of sexist marketing we often see from brands trying to engage a female audience.
"This beer is part of a bigger campaign that raises awareness of the scourge of the gender pay gap and sexism; two issues we think we should be doing a lot more to solve as a society," Warman continued.
"We're proud to donate proceeds from the beer to The Women's Engineering Society who are doing amazing work at inspiring women to break glass ceilings in the STEM sector."
And with that, take a break. We've had more than enough irony for today.
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