Oooh boy, trying to market products that are either for women or in honor of women is a tricky prospect, as Johnnie Walker and Doritos have both learned in the past few weeks. (But really, soft Doritos to protect our fragile lady mouths? COME ON!). And, as Scottish craft beermaker BrewDog learned, being sarcastic about the issue might not be the way to go either, especially when you might be part of the problem you’re joking about.
Earlier this week – and shortly before International Women’s Day – BrewDog tweeted a photo of its signature Punk IPA with a new pink label. “We’ve created a beer for girls. And it’s pink,” they wrote. “Because women only like pink and glitter, right?” That was followed by a facepalm emoji and the hashtag #sarcasm.
Weirdly enough, adding a hashtag wasn’t enough to make the joke any more palatable, and the BrewDoggers were roundly criticized for the sloppy attempt. “BrewDog is trying to be clever, sarcastic and ironic but I think it may be viewed as a patronizing beer from one of the big boys,” Sara Barton, the director of Brewster’s Brewing Company, told The Guardian. “I applaud the thought – it is an issue that needs highlighting in brewing and beyond – but it may be too subtle for people to understand, over their heads and therefore patronizing.”
I Feel embarrassed for you! pic.twitter.com/2XTJNNBbdZ– Blakey (@JRMBlakey) March 6, 2018
If you felt the need to add a #sarcasm hash tag, the alarm bells should have been ringing already.– Gavin Gillingham (@art_begall) March 6, 2018
Everything about this is wrong. I hope the beer is good. #notsarcasm– Lucy Corne (@LucyCorne) March 6, 2018
That...that is pretty much what happened. A day later, BrewDog issued an apology, of sorts, to say that it had good intentions when it tried to highlight a very bad practice...by doing the exact same thing. “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,” the company wrote. “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.”
BrewDog did promise to donate 20% of the proceeds from both Pink and Punk IPA over the next month to two women-centric charities, which is commendable. (The 20% represents the gender-pay gap in the United Kingdom, where BrewDog’s headquarters are located). But BrewDog recently disclosed that it has its own gender-pay gap, reporting that its male employees earn, on average, 2.8% more than its female workers.
“Let’s close that f***ing gender pay gap,” BrewDog wrote in its apology blog, and hopefully it will address its own issues before making lame jokes about everyone else’s. That would be something to drink to.