Even in the days of #metoo, a very respectable brewery to remain unmentioned (no notoriety) announced the introduction of ‘Pink IPA.’ Really?
Reaction was quick and largely critical, even though it seems the brewery was genuinely well-intentioned. They wish to bring attention to the gender pay gap, and promise to give back a percentage of sales to support equal pay and other gender equality issues. They suggest their “beer for girls” approach was simply satire.
Evidently, the satire was lost on many across the beer spectrum. Subsequent attempts by the brewers to clarify their intent have been marked as “mansplaining.” I’ll let the strong, independent women who are properly chastising this brewer do their thing without piling on too much. These women need no help from me.
Case in point is this great Tweet:
I think that I have been drinking “Beer for Girls” for years – which is miraculously also known as Beer…@KCbeerchick (Kimberly Clements)
From a wider marketing standpoint, this campaign hits on two axioms, one true and one false. First, the true axiom: it’s good to stand out. No doubt, these brewers hit the mark on standing out! But then there is this false axiom: any publicity is good publicity. And in that regard, this venture may be the perfect poster child for proving this old adage false.
But let’s go beyond this critical issue to an even deeper fundamental aspect of about beer. Beer is not about division. Beer is not about war or conflict. Beer is not about class or social strata or exclusion. Beer should be about bringing people together. Beer should be universally inclusive. And so even in the cloak of satire, I don’t think it wise to use beer divisively.
Beer Culture Deserves Scrutiny
When the #metoo movement was first gaining steam, I was saddened by social media posts from far too many of my female colleagues in beer. They bravely spoke to their experience of sexual discrimination, harassment, and yes, even abuse. I anticipated I would find some of this when I first got into corporate beer. But even so, I was surprised at the frequency, severity and lack of accountability for such atrocities. Shame on me for not speaking up more often or not more actively supporting my female colleagues. To all of you, I am truly sorry.
One of the things I like best about my transition from working in corporate-beer to focusing on craft beer the past ten years is a much more gender-neutral and respectful culture in craft beer. I’ve meet amazing female brewers, operations managers, sales managers, marketers and even owners along the way. And yet, even in craft beer, there is much left to be accomplished.
Let’s face it. Beer, even craft beer, remains predominately a white male’s world. From breweries to distributors to retailers, the old white boy network remains much intact. I like that a well-intentioned craft brewery would think to take on an important gender-bias issue like equal pay.
Good Intentions Are Not Enough
This particular campaign reminds me of a true story about my cousin who also fell a bit short on his execution of good intentions. He was an anxious teenager at the time. At his younger brother’s summer baseball game, he quickly lost interest and began wandering around the surrounding grounds. He found a large tree covered in poison ivy. He proceeded to get right into the tangle and pull the vines from the tree, making a neat pile beside the base of the tree. By the time others in the family caught up to him, he was about finished. And, of course, he was already showing signs of breaking out in a full body rash. His good deed earned him a quick trip to the doctor’s office where he received treatment that kept him from becoming anything more than just severely miserable for a couple of weeks.
When asked why he had done it in the first place, he replied, “Well, I didn’t want anyone to get into the poison ivy.”
To which Bill Engvall would have surely said, “Here’s your sign!”
There Are Better Ways
No doubt there are issues in the world that a positive beer culture can impact. But like my cousin, diving into issues without better forethought often results in severe discomfort. And, despite good intentions, it may not help that much in resolving these important issues.
I don’t think “beer for girls” is a sound approach even if the satire is executed brilliantly. What’s a better way? I think it looks more like all of us speaking up when we see issues in support of those who have so much to contribute to craft beer but aren’t in the white male club. We can seek out ways of attracting, nurturing and celebrating the contributions of diverse and talented individuals. We can make craft beer culture more welcoming, more respectful and more about bringing all of us together instead of pushing us apart. We can demand better of our employees, our distributors and retailers, and especially ourselves. Because beer should be universally inclusive and respectful.
Fact is, the brewer in question could have kept their IPA as is and still have executed other essential elements of their campaign. The give-back and promotion of the issue without “beer for girls” would still have brought attention without being so polarizing. Going for the quick joke or shock value has its time and place. But maybe not in this category, and certainly not with this issue.
There’s a lot of room for more diversity and mutual respect even in our craft beer culture.
What are you doing to make your brewery, distributorship or retail operation a place where everyone is welcome, respected and celebrated? Hopefully, as we all get better at this in craft beer, it will spill over into the broader world around us.
Happy International Women’s Day!
Cheers to all the strong, independent women in my life!
John Mann (@beermktguy)
#craftbeer #marketing #independentbeer #beer @newbelgium @WeldWerksBrewCo @CerebralBrewing
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