Back in March this year Heineken pulled an advert for their new low calorie beer. The advert showed a beer sliding past a number of black people before stopping in front of a lighter skinned person, with the tagline “Sometimes lighter is better.” It was pulled after numerous complaints, including one from Chance the Rapper, about the unquestionable racist tone to the advert.
At around the same time Brewdog was attempting to address the gender pay gap situation with their Pink IPA take on Punk IPA. The idea was widely panned; the premise seemingly in the right direction but the execution poor.
In a society of personal opinion I know which one I see as the more derisory, yet the scorn from those that I choose to follow on various social media platforms was aimed at the latter advertising campaign. Indeed it is still being discussed five months later as a reason to boycott the brand.
I’ve not seen anything said of Heineken’s pulled advertisement since March. In fact, I saw little outcry about it at the time.
This week Brewdog made the unusual PR move to parody famous pornographic website PornHub to launch their own TV channel. Again, the social media voices were not impressed, with some stating that they would begin to shun the brewery’s bars and their products.
Some of those voices have previously been vocally supportive of Heineken taking a large stake of London based brewery Beavertown. Just a few months ago. No mention of Lighter is Better occurred.
But we were still talking Pink IPA. We’ll probably be talking PornDog for a similarly lengthy period.
one of our own.
There is a risk of whatabouttery to this post thus far but that isn’t my objection. People will express anger and discontent about those happenings they feel more connected to. My personal opinion about which marketing campaign is the more heinous crime is irrelevant. I am intrigued as to how the Beer Bubble approaches the different offences though. I make the comparisons because they are... comparable.
The reaction and focus on the Scottish breweries continually desperate antics fall fouler of the Bubble because they are treated like the rogue sibling that you haven’t quite given up on. You can remember the good times when you were kids together, before their heads were turned by the wrong crowd. You loved them and it has been difficult to let them go. They haven’t been ostracised from the family yet and so each of their mistakes is still a personal disappointment.
The truth is they should have been abandoned by now. They belong to another family; the family that seem to be ignored by all. I can only think that more wasn’t made of that Heineken advertisement because people that I communicate with have disassociated themselves from the brand. It may as well be happening in another industry. We continue to treat Brewdog like the little local brewery down the road in the tiny industrial unit. It is time to start viewing them as the corporate machine they are.
That isn’t to say that you can’t take a stand when they do something offensive and can’t have an opinion on it but we need to distance ourselves from the punk ideals.
Punk – yeah, that’s another thing. I wrote in 2016, after visiting the Ellon headquarters, that we need to let them have the word Punk. They are not Punk in the same way Lady Gaga’s fans aren’t actual monsters or Taylor Swift fans aren’t a quick pint downed whilst waiting for the train. I’m repeating myself but just let it go. It negates all arguments when the only response is that’s not very punk.
Outside the Bubble
Some conversations are perfectly timed and bring you back to reality. Beer Twitter is loud and obnoxious at times. Some of the people may have thousands of followers, but it still exists within the industry itself.
On the same day that Brewdog launched its Beer Channel and subsequent pornographic promotional material I went to visit my sister. Whilst we were chatting, my brother-in-law said to me, “I had that Clockwork Tangerine by that Brewdog the other day, Mark. Ooof that’s a good drink.”
The mention of the brewery brought the earlier Twitter conversations back to mind. I very nearly responded with a breakdown of the day’s developments: “Well Brewdog have actually upset a lot of people today with this new advert....”
I imagined the scenario in my head as I regaled my non-beery brother-in-law with details about a PornHub parody and the successive reaction. I pictured his face turn from polite interest to complete bemusement. I could hear the long pause that would succeed it, followed by a murmured, “Oh right... yeah... so... it’s a nice beer though.”
He wouldn’t care, not because he doesn’t care about others prejudices but because it’s just beer to him. It is to the vast majority of the population.
Do you even BroDog?
I’ve been a subscriber of Brewdog’s Fanzine service since its inception and have needlessly taken it upon myself to drink the beers each time in a single sitting, reviewing them on Instagram later on. The latest box is still sat in my fridge, with the latest round of social media storms leaving me tentative to drink them. This is not because of a strong feeling of embargo from myself, but more the backlash I fear from others who have distanced themselves from the brewery.
It is silly. Most people know people who work for the company who are great people. I’ve been to Aberdeenshire and everybody I met in the process was wonderful. I’ve had nothing but positive experiences in their bars (with the exception of Brewdog Liverpool – twice.) I’ve even met some of the outside marketing team that worked on a couple of projects for Brewdog and – guess what – they were wonderful people, even if I found some of their work questionable.
I’ve also fallen back to their beers through Fanzine, enjoying the less-rough-around-the-edges more accomplished style of brewing. If I enjoy the beers and the people under their employment are still good people then I can’t hold up my own picket signs. James Watt being a prick to one of my friends on social media may change that, but not the ill thought-out advertisements made from an external marketing company.
Do we still need Brewdog? asked Kirsty Walker. There is only so much those continually exposed to these marketing campaigns can take before they cut themselves away. But, in all honesty, most within my beer drinking circle gave up on the brand a long time ago. I don’t know many within that community who go to their bars much or drink their beers regularly. I don’t know anyone within that bubble who make beelines for them when in the likes of Manchester or Leeds. They aren’t for us anymore. They are for the brother-in-law to pick up in Tesco or for the non-beery friends who come to barbecues with packs in hand. We need to stop critiquing them as a microbrewery when they are a conglomerate. If that involves resorting to boycott for you then so be it.
Just don’t sit there with a Heineken beer – or any of their subsequent brands – and tell me that the latest genital-waving from Scotland is abhorrent.