Today, BrewDog announced their ‘new’ beer – Pink IPA – a satirically dubbed Beer for Girls. Essentially, it’s Punk IPA, in a pink-labelled bottle. The beer has been launched to coincide with International Women’s Day. The intention behind the beer? To expose sexist marketing and highlight the gender pay gap.
By packaging the beer in crass, lurid pink, BrewDog’s aim is to mock the lazy marketing efforts often seen from other brands when targeting females. We’ve seen multiple instances in the past where brands have male and female versions of the same product – the girl’s version is often pink, sparkly and more expensive for what is ostensibly the same thing. A 2016 analysis carried out by the Times found that where equivalent products were priced differently, they cost 37% more for women.
The current pay gap in the UK is 20% – another very real issue – and their desire to highlight it is admirable. As part of the campaign, BrewDog will be serving Pink IPA 20% cheaper in their bars to those who identify as women. Punk IPA will still be its regular price, which will rightly raise the question, why are we paying different amounts for what is, at the end of the day, the same beer in a bottle with a different label?
For four weeks, BrewDog will also be donating 20% (the gender pay gap in the UK) of proceeds from bottled Pink IPA and Punk IPA to causes which address current gender disparities and seek to boost the number of young girls interested in a future in STEM industries.
In theory, this all sounds great… doesn’t it? Yet the reaction provoked by Pink IPA today has been incredibly mixed, at best.
With any marketing campaign, the initial feelings evoked by the visuals are everything. You see something, it ilicits an innate response. Equality is such an important issue which people are fiercely passionate about, so when they see something which appears to reinforce gender stereotypes – it’s going to piss them off. It doesn’t matter if you explain how ironic you’re being in a press release or on the back of the bottle, you’ve already provoked a negative reaction by reinforcing the stereotype, no matter how well intended.
The negative reactions loosely fell into two types:-
- Those who saw the label as another example of sexist marketing, and didn’t do any further research about the meaning behind the campaign.
jesus christ that pink IPA advertising is shocking . If a girl wants to drink a beer let her fuckin drink a beer, without trying to force the fact it has to be girly enough to do so which somehow correlates to pink? I hate pink
— Beth (@bethjjackson) March 6, 2018
2. Those who understood the intention behind the message but still saw it as a crass, ill-judged way to get your point across – more publicity stunt, than campaign for positive change.
Parody? Satire? I genuinely don't give a shit. This #PinkIPA campaign is clumsy, calculated and gormless. You want to create irony @BrewDog? How about Suicide IPA for male depression? No? Really? Well women are a much easier target after all.
— Cath Janes (@KrakenKreations) March 6, 2018
You might say that the first group of people just “don’t get it” but it’s simply not up to them to figure out how clever and ironic the campaign is – you can’t expect the general public to read press releases, to keep on top of the latest craft beer news or even read the back of the bottle of beer. If they see a bottle of beer with Pink IPA written on a pink label, they see it as gender-stereotyping.
That’s not their fault; it’s a poorly delivered message. If you have to explain the reasoning behind the faux-sexism, then the campaign probably isn’t as clever as it thinks it is. I’m sure the last thing BrewDog wanted from this campaign was for it to be perpetually mansplained, but here we are.
The idea of combatting sexism in marketing with more sexist marketing brings to mind the old ‘fighting for peace is like fucking for virginity’ adage. You wouldn’t black-face to highlight racism or go around punching people to combat violence – so how is this any different?
BrewDog do provocative marketing brilliantly but this campaign feels muddled. As an initiative, it’s an admirable exercise intended to highlight very real issues in the beer industry and beyond, but the execution leaves a lot to be desired.
Using sexist stereotypes will create debate and conversation, sure – and that in itself is a good thing – but it’s a shame that the intended message has been overshadowed by that initial, visceral reaction created by the use of those outdated stereotypes in the first place. When your campaign ends up pissing off the people it’s intended to support, something’s gone wrong.
Read about Pink IPA on BrewDog’s blog and make up your own mind. Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.