BrewDog gets hot under the collar

by Rebecca Lloyd-Wright

7th September 2018

Scottish craft beer company BrewDog was left fire-fighting in August, after it dropped some seriously hardcore content to launch its new video-on-demand site, The BrewDog Network. The site itself sounds great—what’s not to love about unlimited ad-free access to beer, food, travel and entertainment series?

Well that wasn’t the problem. In this Insta-era, it seems everyone tacks on the word ‘porn’ to food or drink to let people know just how great a product is. But BrewDog took this one (rather large) step further, creating a porn parody site, Beer.Porn, to arouse interest in their new network.

Despite being no stranger to controversy, BrewDog instantly received a huge backlash on social media. Outraged consumers called out the brand for the use of “crass euphemisms”, lowering the tone of the craft beer industry and even for making them “feel unwelcome”. As a result, the landing page was removed within 24 hours of going up—talk about the power of social.

This misjudged PR move is reminiscent of the launch of BrewDog’s Pink IPA earlier in 2018, a rebrand of their Punk IPA beer, satirically dubbed ‘Beer for Girls’ in an attempt to tap in to the gender pay gap conversation. Similar to the Beer.Porn debacle, the brand received backlash from social media users who pointed out that the product was sexist and clichéd. Although senior spokespeople argued they  sought to represent the people who drink beer, it was ultimately a product that no one asked for.

So does the old advertising adage “sex sells” still ring true? Not so for BrewDog. The core interests of its consumers seem to have been overlooked with the brand’s desire to create viral content and draw in subscribers. This miscalculated campaign succeeded in alienating potential customers, rather than bringing them on board.

It will be interesting to see how vastly underestimating their consumers will affect subscriptions to The BrewDog Network. The concept itself is fascinating. The craft beer company is betting big on content, with the service featuring a slew of beer and culinary-themed shows, game shows and documentaries, for just $4.99 per month. Company founders, Martin Dickie and James Watt, said the service is a “genuine move to take the video-on-demand revolution to a new level. Driven by true passion and enthusiasm, we are doing exactly what we did with craft beer; raising standards and eyebrows in equal measure.”

BrewDog has since “pledged to stop ‘shock tactics’ and focus on beer”. If this is the case, then we hope to see great things from the network and wonder how many other brands will follow suit with content-led services.