Satire is difficult. (I’m constantly in awe of our colleagues over at The Onion who have perfected the art form.) So I’m not surprised to see that BrewDog, a brewery founded in the U.K. that also has a U.S. location in Columbus, Ohio, struggled to stick the landing with its new Pink IPA, a “beer for girls.”
The beer name is a play on the brewery’s flagship Punk IPA, but nearly everything about the beer’s marketing campaign gets lost in translation.
According to BrewDog’s press release about the launch, Pink IPA is “a clarion call to close the gender pay gap in the U.S. and around the world and to expose sexist marketing to women, particularly within the beer industry.” Those are admirable goals, but the campaign’s execution is a mess. The beer is a satire, BrewDog says in the release, “a send-up of the lazy marketing efforts targeting the female market.” Other beers marketed to women—notably Aurosa, a delicate, pretty bottle sold in the Czech Republic—were met with swift backlash.
But merely copying the idea you’re hoping to lambast is neither effective satire nor comedy. If consumers didn’t see this press release—and why would they?—it’s entirely unclear that Pink IPA is anything but the type of marketing BrewDog hopes to combat. The brewery also says it will charge customers who identify as women 80 percent of the full retail value of Pink IPA to call attention to the wage gap that persists between men and women. But again, are consumers going to connect the dots?
There is a silver lining: BrewDog plans to donate 20 percent of the profits from Pink IPA to worthy causes including 9to5, an organization of women workers, and The Women’s Engineering Society.
That’s admirable, but I’m afraid the Pink IPA will merely perpetuate the myth that beer should be marketed differently to men and women. There’s an ongoing conversation about beer labels that depict women in cartoonish, oversexualized poses, which are designed to appeal to straight men, I guess, but may also turn women consumers off of the product or beer as a whole.
BrewDog USA, with many women employees and a black female CEO, is uniquely positioned to advance the conversation about who is included in the craft beer scene and who is not. I just don’t think Pink IPA is the best tool to do so.