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BrewDog's Pink IPA: intended to highlight gender inequality, achieved social media backlash over gender stereotypes


BrewDog red in face over Pink IPA blunder

BrewDog has been forced to apologise for a clumsy intervention for International Women’s Day after launching a ‘Pink IPA’ to highlight the gender pay gap.

The rebranding of its flagship Punk IPA was described by the Scottish craft brewer as “satirical”, but the post-modern irony fell flat as social media and the blogosphere raged against an initiative widely condemned as ‘tone-deaf’.

While many appreciated that the attempt to raise awareness of the issue and raise money for charities campaigning for equal pay was well-intentioned, BrewDog’s methods were accused of reinforcing rather than undermining gender stereotypes, doing exactly the kind of marketing it was supposedly attacking.

The strapline “beer for girls” on the bottle didn’t help.

The hashtag #pinkipa was soon trending on Twitter. Some recalled the brewer’s own sexist branding in its early days, and its controversial launch in 2015 of a ‘transgender’ beer that saw founders James Watt and Martin Dickie dragging up as sex workers.

Beer writer Melissa Cole summed up the mood on Twitter:

Melissa Cole‏@MelissaCole Mar 7

Brewdog Pink IPA came from a good place from women inside the business. The problem is: a) Argh. Pink. No. b) If you have to explain it, it’s already backfired c) Any initiative like this from BD is going to be greeted with epic scepticism given history of hyper-macho stunts.

Within 24 hours BrewDog released a statement on its website that expressed surprise at the reaction before admitting it had got it wrong – though it still seemed to miss the point that most critics did understand it was meant as a joke. They just weren’t laughing.

“For many of you - well, most of you - it seems we didn’t land the joke. The fact that people so easily believed that we were serious about the name and branding is a stark reminder of the scale of the problem. We should have done more to show that this element of the campaign was tongue in cheek.

“Our intention when calling it Pink IPA was to spark conversation around stereotypes and gender inequality. To poke fun at those brands marketing pink things to women. We’re sorry it wasn’t clear enough.

“The reaction to Pink IPA definitely proved there is a need for more awareness about the gender pay gap, and a better understanding of what it is.”

Pink IPA is on sale in BrewDog bars at a 20% discount to customers “identifying as women.” The brewer will also be donating 20% of the proceeds to two charities, the Women’s Engineering Society and American organisation 9to5.

The 20% figure is the scale of the gender pay gap in the UK.

Phil Mellows 
12th March 2018

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