No Futures
October 22, 2009

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?