No Futures

The Dead Milkmen might have some marketing tips for punk investors

The Dead Milkmen might have some marketing tips for punk investors

Of course it would take a fab party, thrown by the BrewDog guys, to get me to break my long silence.  Some of the blogoshire has been discussing the Equity for Punks proposal, the most recent business development strategy from my favourite UK brewery.  Basically, you can own a small share of the brewery for a dear price.  You get a say in their plans and a 20%, life-long discount on their beers.

I arrived at the party without knowing what was up, having left early that morning before the informative email had been sent.  For days I kept wondering what the news could be– building it up in my mind as some big, ongoing collaboration between a US brewery like Stone, or some new transatlantic brewery, some London-based brew house,  but I kept wondering– why have it in the City, right in the heart of the very unpunk land of suits? Well, now I know.

Toni and her colleague, the brewery’s PR people, welcomed me to the party and filled me in– how lovely to arrive somewhere and know friendly faces were waiting to have chat and get you a beer.  These guys have PR down, and it’s not just because they are professional about it– there is sincerity in everything they do.

Later in the evening James came by and guessed perfectly the beer in my glass (delicious Bashah, a black double-belgian IPA by Stone and Brewdog– the one-two punch of chocolate malt and a complex hop combination). When James asks you how you like something, he genuinely wants to know.  Drinkers matter to James, as much as the beer. That’s why, if I had the 230 at my disposal right now, I would hand it to him in a heartbeat. After all, this brewery has given me some of my most ecstatic beer moments and continues to capture my imagination.

(Other beers of the evening were old standbys as well as the sardonically named Nanny State, a 1.1% mild, practical joke of a beer which tasted more like unfermented wort and was so hoppy I was still tasting it the next day. )  I saw several beer bloggers who let me know my posts have been missed– it’s nice to know that people still remember this blog.  At one point Jesus John beat me repeatedly at arm wrestling.  And I even managed to make some new friends as well– we shut the place down.

Now the morning-after-the-night-before haze as abated, I have read the Equity for Punks prospectus and have decided that as a traditional investment it makes no sense at all.  But as Pete Brown has pointed out, that’s not really why they are doing this, and if you read the comments to the post, James has articulately responded to some concerns being raised about the numbers on this thing.  The green brewery they have planned is beyond exciting, and if this means the brand will grow, making their beautiful beer more accessible to a wider range of drinkers, how could I be against it?

The ironic “Equity” pun is intentional, I suppose– this isn’t necessarily equitable, especially to any of the punks I know who couldn’t afford the 230 quid price per share.

Equity for Punks promo image

Equity for Punks promo image

But there is another inequality here that surprised me– and that is the new role of women-as-window-dressing.   It is an approach that BrewDog hasn’t had to take to sell their beers, until now.

Unsurprisingly, most of the people at the party were men.  A sea of suits.  Except, milling about were a pair of women sporting a shiny version of Camden punk-goth-emo, looking like two exotic birds misplaced among a murder of crows. At first, naively, I was excited.  Look– other women! I was about to go up an chat to them when the realization chilled me: these were BrewDog’s answer to the Bud Girl.

The promotional image for Equity for Punks features three screeching maenads-for-hire, decked out in the latest Suicide Girl style sexy-punk.  Whose idea was this?  I’d like to think that James and Martin look a bit uncomfortable in the photos, as if the tie-pulling there is more than fabricated flirtation. Did their new partners at Skyy Vodka put them up to this?

My short time wearing a suit and working in the City taught me that it was like going back in time, to gender roles of the 1950s.  Women in the London banking industry survive by somehow embracing their role as sex objects while competing in a man’s world. BrewDog may be ironically donning suits as well as the backwards gender attitudes of the City, but I’m not in on the joke.  I would like to think that James and Martin’s being surrounded by a punk harem is just an abberation in the brand’s marketing.   Though I might be the only person to openly voice this discomfort, I was not the only person that night to comment on this.

BrewDog, please don’t use women in this way in the future– you risk losing potential women drinkers, and alienating the ones you already have. We don’t want to be the flowers in your dustbin.   But do I have to put on my old corporate suit and find 230 pounds before you hear me on this?

16 Responses

  1. You are the only person I’ve ever beaten at arm wrestling (I assure you, this says more about me than it does about you…) so the evening was a genuine thrill for me.

    On the subject of misplaced machismo, I’m totally with you on the women-as-window-dressing thing. Very unseemly and at odds with the brand. The emo/goth/punk (delete as applicable) ‘totty’ lined up just sort of stood around. Lovely though the evening was, it’s tricky to look glamorous in the upstairs room of a City pub.

    I mentioned to you that to do it ‘ironically’, one would have to go the whole hog: sat on a 1980s gold Rolls Royce, sporting a navy blazer with brass buttons, cravat and captain’s cap and clutching a couple of bikini-clad beauties. From Luton.

    My fantasies aside, I wish BrewDog all the best. It’s too much money for me (and at that level, the valuation does figure – it is overvalued, regardless of the plucky talk of their intangible assets), but those who want in will surely make good use of the 20% lifetime discount.

    As a serious capital raising exercise, I think they’d make more money for their fascinating projects if they’d pitched at £50-£100 per share, even if they were wedded to their high valuation.

    £100 and, say, a 10% discount on the site and I’d probably have forgiven the valuation. I suspect others would have, too.

    I have to update my blog now. You broke your word!

    • I broke my word, but you nearly broke my arm! *snorf*

      James mentioned at the party as well as on Pete Brown’s blog that they couldn’t put the share price any lower and still raise capital after all the fees were considered. I believe him.

      Even so, the 230 price excludes a lot of their core fans and supporters, which is a shame, especially if it means that the older, more institutionally entrenched demographic who can afford it will start calling the shots, asking for more ads featuring the Dogettes (or worse)…

  2. It’s not just women who are put off by women-as-sex-objects in advertising. I despise the implication that I – as a heterosexual male – am so pathetically led by my cock than I can be induced into buying a product by the barely concealed advertising implication that people who drink/drive/own the object advertised can get the hot ladies.

    I’m not sure whether to plump for the buy-in, although I could afford it.

    • Thanks for commenting, Jack. I completely agree– the others at the party who voiced dissatisfaction with the images were guys. It’s just embarrassing for the brewers and the drinkers really.

      I’m curious, since you are flush enough to jump on this, what would be the deciding factors?

      • Well, I like BrewDog. They make good beer, and they have a likeable craft ethic. That’s the plus.

        What isn’t clear about the whole Equity for Punks is whether this is a beer fan support for an ace company exercise or a serious investment exercise. In the end, it ends up looking to me like an uncomfortable half way house; and I’m unhappy at investing under such terms.

        Secondly, I’m unsure about their involvement with the Skyy Vodka guys. Yes, I’m sure as a business opportunity it was probably too good to turn down but I don’t like the whole Skyy Vodka approach – you are, after all, talking about a product made with bulk ethanol and mixed with mineral water and flavourings, which is pretty much as far from BrewDog’s craft approach as you can get. That worries me.

        • Yes– I would hope that the Skyy Vodka guys can give BrewDog the agency to make their own decisions– which have been successful so far. I was a little shocked when I heard the news of this partnership, and it is a tad worrying.

  3. That’s the first comment I’ve heard about the reasoning for the price. If that’s the case, I guess it’s just a shame that some fans are excluded. I a, but hopefully only in the short term and I’m pretty tempted to part with some money to see how this goes

    • Hi Mark, Thanks for reading– I suppose in 2012 the share price could change, making it more accessible, but I have to admit, the fun would be in hitching onto this now.

  4. When you need a finance/punk pun for a post title, there’s only one blogger capable of delivering the goods. Well done.

    Yeah, the dolly birds thing is annoying. Not just because it’s sexist but also because it’s lazy lazy PR. I bet they hardly even gobbed at you.

    • Haha– Beer Nut! I knew you would get it. The night was completely gob-free! Nary a freshly-scabbed, DIY piercing in the room. Someone needs to show them how it’s done: heating safety pins with a lighter like we used to back in my day!

  5. It’s a shame if that about the fees is right. I think the price point is an issue. Some will say (have said) if you don’t have the money, don’t invest.

    Fair enough, but investors wanting to put in *a lot* of cash would look at the valuation and go elsewhere. Those who seldom invest appear to be the key audience, but to them it’s a lot to pay upfront.

    Like I say in my new blog post – quick riposte, eh? – I don’t want to dissuade anyone from pitching in if they do have the dosh. It’s sure to be a bit of fun. And as I commented over at Pencil & Spoon, the AGMs are likely to be absolute pissups.

    • Fair enough, but investors wanting to put in *a lot* of cash would look at the valuation and go elsewhere. Those who seldom invest appear to be the key audience, but to them it’s a lot to pay upfront.

      I think this is the crux of it. I don’t know how this can be reconciled. I only hope that those who can afford to invest will share the brewery’s sincerity and vision.

      Oh the AGMs! It is the selling point, isn’t it?

  6. With regard to your worries the corporate suit dudes were pushing the sexy chicks nonsense, I suspect you’re right.

    Skyy Vodka, which the new BrewDog investors sold in 2007, appears to have form. Take a look:

    • Yes…there is a pattern there– there’s even some more tie-pulling in these ads. I have a feeling this is a fluke and we won’t be seeing the likes of this again from Brew Dog.

  7. My thoughts on some of the issues discussed.

    • Hi James, Thanks for stopping by with the link! That up to four people can go in on a share together is a really good idea, and definitely opens up possibilities for many of us who aren’t very flush at the moment but would still like to be part of this. I’m really excited about the bar in Aberdeen as well.

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