Brands really want women to buy their products. After all, they’re half of the population (read: market). But the problem is that in order to get that sweet, sweet lady cash, they often take a bit of a tone-deaf marketing approach. (See: Bic’s Pens for her or, if you’re a woman, just look down at that pink, feathery pen in your hand in which you write only love letters and low-fat chocolate recipes.)
Beer feels like one of those products that companies have an especially hard time marketing to women.
“BEER IS MAN DRINK!” marketing executives say while rubbing two sticks together to create a trashcan fire in which to grill some recently hunted meat. “COSMOS ARE FOR GIRLS AND BEER IS FOR BOYS.”
It’s a real conundrum, one that certainly wouldn’t be simply freaking solved by looking at how super cool female brewers do it.
Now Brewdog has decided to throw their hat in the ring with a new beer (actually just a rebrand of their Punk IPA) called “Pink IPA: Beer for girls.”
Look, we all know this is intended as a joke. Nobody is questioning whether or not they’re serious here. And beyond the joke, Brewdog is trying to make a statement about wage inequality. They’re selling the beer at 20% less to people who identify as women to highlight the continued problem of the wage gap that exists in the UK and around the world. And, they’re donating 20% of the proceeds to organizations that fight that wage gap and programs that work to increase women’s presence in STEM fields.
They’re also trying to take a satirical look at marketing towards women. That’s all great. But the question is, does the joke work?
My rule of thumb is: You can joke about literally anything as long as it’s actually funny. But if the joke doesn’t work about something that could be viewed as offensive, brace yourself, because you deserve the criticism. And. It. Is. Coming.
The reaction to the stereotypical marketing (albeit a bit heightened) as a joke is pretty mixed here.
Many feel that trying to be an ally when you are trying to sell something to those “allies” is false activism. It’s part of the reason (amongst a whole slew of reasons) why Pepsi’s Jenner ad failed so, so miserably. To marginalized groups, it can feel like a pretty shitty marketing ploy to announce that you “get it” just to get that group to buy your beer.
Ultimately, you don’t get a full license to joke about whatever just because you tie your joke into a genuine interest to help a cause. And if the group you’re joking about feels like you’re joking at them instead of with them, then you probably didn’t hit the mark. It’s a parody, sure. But in the name of joking about sexism, they may have just contributed to it.
The spirit of this beer is cool, but enough women feel like the joke was in poor taste to make it worth questioning. Perhaps Brewdog was just trying to do too much at once, and the “fake” sexist marketing fell flat in the flurry of ideas.
It’s tricky, and we don’t want brands to just not try at all. Hopefully, Brewdog will learn from and listen to the voices of women who feel like they can (and should) do a better job getting the same message across. Women want allies. But ones that take the time to listen are much preferred.