In the space of less than 12 months, self-proclaimed purveyors of punk, and craft beer ‘revolutionaries’ BrewDog have ended up with tails placed firmly between legs after sexist marketing stunts gone wrong, badly judged tweets and sticking it to…the little guy? Wait what?
Yes, the scrappy upstarts from Fraserburgh, who have spent most of their history campaigning against “mega beer corporations” appear at risk of becoming everything they’ve fought against. It started with the threat of legal action against an independently owned pub in Birmingham, and snowballed with the release of Pink IPA, a poorly thought out marketing stunt aimed at shedding light on the gender pay gap.
On both occasions, BrewDog were forced to release begrudging apologies in order to quell the subsequent online backlash. Neither apology was particularly effusive, and yet it appears to have done absolutely bugger all to dent the BrewDog brand. In fact, conjecture may even suggest that it has actually helped speed up the businesses incredible growth trajectory.
In fact, just a couple of weeks after their Pink IPA fail, BrewDog announced that sales had topped £100m for the first time, whilst it was announced just last week that Co-Founders James Watt and Martin Dickie had put craft beer on the Sunday Times Rich List for the very first time.
It’s hardly the first time that BrewDog have courted controversy; from Watt and Dickie legally changing their names to Elvis in a bid to avoid the threat of legal action, to serving the world’s strongest beer out of dead squirrels, the business hasn’t seemingly suffered despite widespread criticism since their inception. In fact, BrewDog as a business is now valued at an eye watering £1.8 billion.
Whilst many companies seem absolutely terrified of any kind of controversy, it seems pretty clear that regularly appearing in the middle of social media sh*tstorm’s has done little to dent BrewDog’s bottom line. Similarly, Protein World reported additional sales of £2m in just one week, despite a huge online backlash over their controversial Beach Body Ready campaign.
Whilst this is by no means a ringing endorsement for poorly thought out marketing stunts, it does at least suggest there is scope for the right business to consider being a little risqué in their digital marketing campaigns in order to stand out from the crowd. Obviously, deliberate provocation is only likely to end one way, however getting things a little wrong may cause an initial backlash, but it’s only going to be a matter of time before someone else comes along to claim the spotlight. Equally, a backlash like the one Protein World received can actually mobilise your core customers into action, strengthening your relationship with them in the long-run.