In today’s addition to the pantheon of Marketing Schemes in Poor Taste, we welcome BrewDog’s Pink IPA. An apparent tongue-in-cheek “parody on the failed, tone-deaf campaigns that some brands have attempted in order to attract women,” Pink IPA is a play on the brand’s signature Punk IPA—except the bottle is, you guessed it, pink. And in a particularly rough bit of failed satire, the company launched Pink IPA with a tweet that read, “This is not ‘beer for girls.’ This is beer for equality.”
Discerning individuals quickly noticed, of course, that the Pink IPA label quite literally includes the words “beer for girls.” The press release that ran with the launch loftily explained the apparent contradiction: “Satirically dubbed ‘Beer for Girls,’ Pink IPA is BrewDog’s clarion call to close the gender pay gap in the U.K. and around the world and to expose sexist marketing to women, particularly within the beer industry.” Because the most effective form of satire is releasing something that’s indistinguishable from the phenomena you’re satirizing unless you get and read press releases.
Of their ingenious gambit, BrewDog also proudly proclaimed, “Lazily targeting the female market with sub-par products designed by expensive research are inherently patronising.” To assuage this self-inflicted cognitive dissonance, BrewDog is donating a fifth of the proceeds from both the Pink and original Punk IPA “to charities that fight inequality and support women” for four weeks. And hey, women even get 20 percent off the Pink IPA in any BrewDog bar. Men, however, pay full price because “reality really is that harsh.” Cheeky!
The marketing ploy was roundly criticized both by people who actually read beyond the initial tweet and those who didn’t, proving that explaining a bad idea doesn’t suddenly make it good.
Sadly, BrewDog’s stunt falls perfectly into the trap of all “woke” satirical marketing campaigns—the trap being that they shouldn’t exist. No matter how much of the proceeds the companies donate—and it’s usually something paltry like 20 percent—these campaigns always ring hollow because they’re attempting to sell you something and sweetening the deal with a side of oppression. As with other lame but highly visible slacktivism trends—see: safety pins—loudly proclaiming your virtuosity and trying to profit both financially and socially from it reads as both desperate and shallow.
Combine that with the fact that successfully executing satire is extremely hard for a faceless brand whose memes and images are going be taken out of their intended context, and what you have on your hands is a campaign gone viral for all the wrong reasons. If BrewDog and companies like it really want to up their woke cred, they should consider foregoing creating a new and “innovative” product and donate part of their existing profits to a charity of their choice. I’ll feel a lot more brand loyalty when I find out that a company I already support quietly contributes to the greater social good rather than when they shove it in my face with a silly label