By Jamee Kirkpatrick, Senior Account Director, Energy and Industrials
As someone who is lives locally to where BrewDog was founded and is still producing beers, I’ve had an eye on their marketing tactics over the years. Agree with them or don’t, but BrewDog has been known to find themselves in the hot seat on more than one occasion.
Some would argue that their stunts over the years were rarely right (although, I may argue that they got people’s attention, and it helped them become a household brand – whether that’s ‘punk’ or not) but the brewing giant has come under fire again with their latest advertising blunder.
What went wrong for BrewDog?
This time, the issues for BrewDog came following a mailer sent in July 2022 titled ‘Feeling Fruity’ which was advertising its Hazy Jane Guava beer alongside a host of other fruity numbers. What was the issue? BrewDog sent the email with the subject ‘One of your five a day’.
BrewDog countered the complaints saying that they believed that recipients would understand that alcoholic beverages were not equivalent to portions of fruit or vegetables, emphasising that the subject was not intended to be a factual claim about the beers.
Understandably, the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA), who is the independent regulator of advertising across all media, agreed that this was misleading and has upheld the complaint stating: “The ASA acknowledged that the subject heading “One of your five a day” might be interpreted by some consumers as a humorous nod to the fruit flavoured beers featured in the body of the email. However, because the claim referred to well-known government advice on health and wellbeing, we considered that, in general, consumers would not expect advertisers to include such claims unless the advertised product was recognised as meeting the requirements of that advice. Further, the claim appeared in the email’s subject heading, which we considered positioned it as a key element of the ad’s message.” You can read the ruling here.
When advertising goes badly
This isn’t the first time, and it certainly won’t be the last, that advertising has gone wrong.
The Netflix docuseries ‘Pepsi, Where’s my Jet’ which was released recently revisits the story of John Leonard, who at 20-years-old attempted to win a fighter jet in a Pepsi sweepstake and he set the stage for a David versus Goliath court battle for the history books against the food and drinks company, all because a lack of clarity – or small print – in the ad. I’m sure we all remember Pepsi’s other marketing blunder which included a Kardashian and some very questionable editorial choices.
Some of the biggest household brands have been getting caught up in controversy centred around poor editorial decisions which have led customers to question the ethics of said companies as well as focus on issues such as sexism, racism and just downright bad taste in ads.
In just the last few years beauty brands such as Nivea, supermarkets like Coop, retailers such as H&M and notably recently, fashion house, Balenciaga, have found themselves facing backlash or embroiled in not only complaints to the ASA but full on court battles as a result.
Why is getting your advertising – or messaging – right so important?
Advertising is everywhere. From tv and magazines, to social media and your online search engine, there is no avoiding it and it’s a powerful tool for businesses. Effective advertising makes people remember your name… but so does bad advertising.
If you don’t work in marketing, you might not know how many stages there are in creating the perfect ad, but let’s just say, it goes through a lot of people from concept to delivery, so when that backlash hits, you know that somewhere there are a lot of people with their head in their hands.
In some instances, you could argue that the message is subjective. Take BrewDog. They thought they were making a joke, but does that make it okay?
As we’ve seen, the ASA doesn’t think so. Yes, brands need to have room to express themselves or have personality, but even those harmless ‘jokes’ have come back to have some very serious repercussions on brands.
Small print exists on television or picture ads for a reason. Managing your messaging and hyper-analysing your social media ad copy or your email subject lines requires a level of scrutiny that some brands may not feel is necessary, but when the brand reputation is on the line, how important is that joke, really?
Getting it right is crucial. As is working with the right people – or agency – to help you challenge your ‘good ideas’. Sometimes, we all need to be tempered and that’s where a specialist communications agency comes in.
If you’re looking to up your communications or advertising game next year but don’t want to find yourself embroiled in drama, speak to our integrated team today to find out how we can help you grow your brand presence and generate leads through our results-based approach!