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New BrewDog branding takes on sexism, fails

Oh boy. If the road to hell is paved with good intentions, then BrewDog has probably just built an eight-lane superhighway with its latest piece of marketing. With International Women's Day (opens in new tab) just around the corner, the cult Glasgow brewery has waded in with a well-meaning campaign aimed at ending gender pay inequality, which manages to hit all the wrong notes.

It's hard to fault much of its thinking. "At BrewDog," says its press release (opens in new tab), "we have always believed that beer is for everyone, and equality is a fundamental right. So today we are launching a clarion call to end the discrimination of gender pay inequality. In the UK men earn on average 20% more than women. And that's not ok."

Yep, with you there. But here's how BrewDog's approaching the issue: with a specially redesigned version of its Punk IPA, renamed Pink IPA. "Satirically dubbed Beer for Girls," the company says, "Pink IPA is BrewDog’s clarion call to close the gender pay gap in the UK and around the world and to expose sexist marketing to women, particularly within the beer industry."

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And yeah, you can see what BrewDog's doing, and honestly there are some great points in there. You can almost sense it tiptoeing through the equality minefield, with a promise to pay 20 per cent of the proceeds from Punk IPA and Pink IPA sold over the next four weeks to charities that fight inequality and support women. Plus a 20 per cent discount on Pink IPA in BrewDog bars for people who identify as female – a qualification guaranteed to enrage all the right people.

Meanwhile over at the Pink IPA site (opens in new tab), it provides a handy clickable guide to the gender pay gap around the world, with South Korea coming off worst with a gap of 39 per cent.

Yet for everything it gets right, it then makes a colossal, cringeworthy misstep, starting with the whole misguided Pink IPA and Beer for Girls thing, and then followed up by its red-faced insistence that it's satirising sexism with this approach. Which we're sure is its intent, but the widespread reaction on social media shows us just how infuriatingly wrong BrewDog's got this one.

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We kind of feel a bit sorry for BrewDog; it's raising some important points and trying to do the right thing. But this whole episode reads like your dad hearing about this 'feminism' thing and giving it a try. For example, from the Pink IPA site:

"Pink IPA might look different on the outside, but it’s exactly the same on the inside.

"Just like the female workforce."

10/10 for good intentions, guys, but 0/10 for basic biology.

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Jim McCauley is a writer, performer and cat-wrangler who started writing professionally way back in 1995 on PC Format magazine, and has been covering technology-related subjects ever since, whether it's hardware, software or videogames. A chance call in 2005 led to Jim taking charge of Computer Arts' website and developing an interest in the world of graphic design, and eventually led to a move over to the freshly-launched Creative Bloq in 2012. Jim now works as a freelance writer for sites including Creative Bloq, T3 and PetsRadar, specialising in design, technology, wellness and cats, while doing the occasional pantomime and street performance in Bath and designing posters for a local drama group on the side.