Gender politics lands craft beer brand in the dog house


To commemorate this year’s International Women’s Day, craft beer company BrewDog has launched a new campaign. Aiming to highlight the gender pay gap, the company has pledged to sell their ‘new’ Pink IPA beer to ‘those identifying as female’ for 20% less than their male counterparts, and to donate 20% of the proceeds of Punk IPA sales to selected women’s organisations (Women’s Engineering Society and 9to5).

Sounds good, doesn’t it? Unfortunately, not everybody thinks so, and the campaign has been met with mixed reviews from press and punters alike.

Taking its Punk IPA beer, BrewDog has rebranded the product, calling it “Pink IPA, beer for girls” complete with pink packaging, because “women only like pink and glitter, right?” The campaign is intended to demonstrate that marketing strategies that foster this ethos are out of date. As with the ‘Yorkie for girls’ campaign of 2012, it also pokes fun at other gender-bias marketing campaigns, such as the ‘Miss Bic’ brand that created Bic pens ‘for her’, which pays lip service to the idea that women are more inclined to buy a product that is pink and glittery.

Whilst the craft beer mogul’s intention is clear, it poses the question as to whether their newest campaign is a genuine attempt at bridging the gender pay gap, or whether it is simply a marketing stunt.

Whether you’re a craft beer fanatic or not, there is no doubt that the Pink IPA campaign has earnt its dinner money in terms of creating a buzz, garnering in total well over 1,000 retweets and nearly twice as many likes and replies on Twitter alone. The only issue is that discussions are not really centring around the gender pay gap, as was the primary intention. The response on social media was instantaneous, with many people leaping to condemn BrewDog for its insensitivity, particularly on International Women’s Day.

Rather than comments on the importance of eliminating the gender pay gap and other such related issues, Twitter, Instagram and Facebook feeds alike were inundated with squabbling over the insensitivity of the campaign, with many people virtually putting their head in their hands in disappointment.

The primary concern, however, is that most people missed the sarcasm involved in this campaign. Is the visual branding and its convoluted history and motivation easily accessible to the everyday consumer? Are they going to understand that BrewDog has created this beer to demonstrate the ineffectiveness of other similar campaigns? Probably not.

From the viewpoint of a consumer who has not seen the detailed explanations surrounding Pink IPA, BrewDog is seen to be bolstering the female gender stereotype. Furthermore, many have argued across multiple social media platforms that if a joke requires further explanation, it can’t have been very funny in the first place. Above all, if the BrewDog marketing team deemed it necessary to insert a sarcasm disclaimer into their own tweet, it is pretty clear that the joke does not stand alone.

However, it would be unfair to condemn BrewDog entirely for their latest marketing attempt. In today’s society, any attempt at bridging the gender pay gap and breaking through the glass ceiling should be applauded. It is just a real shame that such a modern and forward-thinking company, whose marketing campaigns are usually spot on, have managed to enrage most of the public.

Whilst the ironic sentiment of the campaign is not atypical of the craft beer company (who are well known for their modern and forward- thinking marketing strategies and general approach to business), on this occasion the joke has flopped, and well-intentioned irony has instead been mistaken for insensitive satire.  What can be gleaned from this is that BrewDog have done the beer brewer’s equivalent of over-egging the pudding. Irony has in fact made way for more of the same, as to the untrained eye Pink IPA ‘beer for girls’ appears to be exactly what it says on the tin.

Sometimes, understated simplicity trumps overcomplicated irony.