—After becoming the establishment, the anti-establishment brewer came up with a genius way to reassert its punk roots, says Craig Redmond—
I’ve been following the naughty little agitator brand BrewDog ever since it took on the behemoth British beer industry way back in 2007.
Who couldn’t love a couple of rogues from the north of Scotland selling everything they had to buy a stainless-steel kettle so they could start brewing an anti-establishment beer called Punk IPA?
Well, there’s actually an army of people who don’t love BrewDog founders James Watt and Martin Dickie, who seem to have spent as much time in the courts as they have in the brewery.
An industry designated regulator—which BrewDog describes as the mouthpiece for the beer Goliaths—has tried to shut them down from the outset. The Advertising Standards Authority has insisted they pull their ads for false claims. A U.K. agency publicly shamed them for using its creative without credit or compensation. Then a group of 61 employees mutinied the “Punk Pirates,” writing an open letter on Twitter slamming BrewDog’s profit first, toxic work culture.
And pre-pandemic, the two also drew ad industry ire for an anti-marketing campaign that claimed to be the most honest advertising ever, in what appeared to be a desperate attempt to reassert the brand’s punk rebel roots.
BrewDog was suffering from what has killed every other iconoclastic brand that came before it: Success.
How can you continue to mock the establishment when your revenues increased by 10% during Covid despite nationwide pub closures? How can you mock the man when you’ve become the man?
Well, you find another enemy—one that everyone deplores. And then you lead the fight against that enemy, thereby reestablishing your anti-establishment credibility while simultaneously justifying your ubiquity and meteoric success.
That enemy is climate change.
BrewDog has announced that it is the world’s first carbon negative brewery, planting a tree for every beer it sells and proclaiming itself the beer for everyone—the planet’s favourite beer.
And of course, it has done so with tongue planted firmly in cheek and a stiff middle finger salute to its more established global competitors. Right down to the pack shot.
Craig Redmond is a Creative Leader with Palmer Stamnes and Co, an independent family of marketing communication companies.