Our latest beer has “offended” some people, and you know what, we couldn’t give a flying one.
“If you’re offended, it’s your problem” said Salman Rushdie, it may sound on the brash side, he’s right though isn’t he? In today’s world there’s far too many people getting offended over far too little, or even being offended on behalf of someone else. So let’s get this straight – being offended is a choice. If you’re offended by something then check what choices you’re making, it’s downright arrogant to think that because you choose to be offended by something then someone else should modify what they’re doing in order to please (unless of course it’s a direct, purposeful attempt to offended or upset, but that’s a whole different scenario).
We wanted a hero beer, so we brewed a particularly awesome Mid-West IPA, 7.5% ABV, golden, hoppy, sweet – just a damn fine beer. We didn’t give a flying one about the budget (the ingredients were nearly three times the amount we spend on some of other beers), we just wanted an awesome beer and that’s what we did. We’ve had days, just like anyone else on the planet where it hasn’t gone to plan and when it comes down to giving a flying one about anything, you’re empty, nothing more to give – and so we called our wonderful new beer, “Zero Fux” – an exquisitely crafted beer for when you no longer give a flying one.
CAMRA didn’t like this though.
We’d submitted it as our beer to be included on the Locale bar at Bristol Beer Festival, our largest local festival and offered them the beer completely free of charge in exchange for a full page advert in the programme (fairly standard practice). We received communication back that “there have been some objections and concerns about the Zero Fux name and advert”.
We were even asked if the name was “set in stone” – surely a consumer group wouldn’t be asking us to rename our beer and influence how we choose to market our products? All of this under the guise that “CAMRA has a new policy barring beers with ‘rude or offensive’ names from being sold at festivals” and that the festival committee had been asked to debate it.
For your delectation and delight, here’s the advert we’d submitted…
Clearly, we needed a heads up on this policy and requested it from two different contacts at Bristol CAMRA, however, neither of them could actually find a copy. Interesting. So before a decision was to be made about whether our awesome beer would get to show itself off at Bristol Beer Festival, an email request went in to CAMRA. A lovely fellow called Tom Stainer, Head of Communications at CAMRA, sent back the following information…
I’ve included the statement that the National Executive issued at the end of last year.
As you’ll appreciate, this isn’t a policy which can easily documented, and relies on both festival organisers to make a judgement on beer names or artwork, and producers making their own judgement about what has the potential to cause offence.
The National Executive is developing further guidance for branches to help work with producers to discourage them from marketing products using discriminatory or potentially offensive material – we’re hoping more detailed information will be sent out within the next few months.
Oh. So there isn’t actually a documented policy on this – that explains why no one could send one to me. Furthermore, the statement was purely about inclusivity and ensuring that beer names and marketing are not discriminatory to anyone on the basis of their gender, race, sexuality and so on (incidentally, we do agree with this). Clearly, our beer doesn’t discriminate, much like “bad days” don’t discriminate.
Bristol CAMRA felt they needed some more guidance on this – well, with no actual policy to refer to and just the fact that some of them were offended by the name, they didn’t know what to do, so off it went to CAMRA Head Office – get us, having our new beer discussed at CAMRA HQ – we do feel quite honoured now! The message that came back though was clear… CAMRA “cannot be seen to be associated with the launch of a beer with such a name” and that was from the very haughty position of National Director, Nik Antona.
CAMRA want more people to drink the finest quality beer, we do too, and that’s why we like CAMRA (despite all of this, we don’t hold a grudge) – the way we position our brand and the inspiration we draw for our beers appeals to those who are not “traditional” beer drinkers, it is attractive to a younger market and in this faster paced world, we need a product that is edgier and on point with the target market. The majority of CAMRA members are not the specific target market and as such they should have looked at this objectively as a brand and marketing appealing to a particular demographic rather than what THEY would want to see, or what they get “offended” by.
I won’t go in to any detail about them allowing a beer to be at the festival that shares it’s name with a sex toy though – they missed that one didn’t they?!
Anyway, the beer loving Bristolians and wider beer drinking community weren’t going to get their taste buds round our new (very delicious!) beer. Sorry guys, we tried.
They asked if we would like to submit another beer and we toyed with the idea of telling them to sling their hook. However, in the interests of wanting more people to drink our beer, we submitted “The Dude”, our 5.5% pale amber IPA, along with new artwork for the advert…
They didn’t like that. At all.
We were a tad bemused because after all, the advert states a fact, they had banned our wonderful beer from the beer festival – maybe they were embarrassed that they’re bit “fuddy duddy” and that they didn’t want the decision made public? I don’t know, whatever was behind it though, they didn’t like it with some of their committee saying we should be thrown out of the festival altogether (including our sister brand Pitchfork Ales).
Here’s the wording that got their knickers / pants / other under garments in a twist…
We’d even put a little warning on it as a token gesture to ensure their patrons would only check it out if they felt they could. It seems though, that despite it being a factual statement with no opinion or comment, that they just wouldn’t run the ad. Even suggesting we were poking fun at the volunteers for marketing purposes (forgive us for thinking that an advert should grab attention and drive prospects to our website).
Biting our tongues and chilling out on a pint or two, we offered them an olive branch of tweaking the wording slightly…
We sat on tenter hooks awaiting the final decision (we didn’t really, we had some amazing ideas on what to do next!) – and then it did – they were fine to run the ad finally! Perhaps they felt that any consequence of their decision was deflected back to national CAMRA with this wording, regardless, it meant that “The Dude” would be in Bristol and the ad would be in the programme.
“Zero Fux” is shocking, we don’t believe it’s offensive though and overwhelming consensus from those we speak to is that they love the name. In order to get noticed in an incredibly crowded marketplace breweries have to be more creative, they have to appeal to more and more niche markets – look at some of the marketing stunts performed by BrewDog. If someone is offended by it then they’re probably not the target and that’s fine, if you’re not our target market then your opinion on the brand is irrelevant.
If we’d called that beer “Hewish Gold” or “Somerset Strong Ale” then I’m sure there’d be a wide acceptance by CAMRA of it but we can guarantee it wouldn’t sell like it is and it wouldn’t appeal to our target. CAMRA have done an awesome job of promoting real ale but their current revitalisation project is long overdue. They need to be up to date, they need to accept that there will be brands and marketing that some of them just don’t like and that they’re not the “Beer Police”. Yes, ensure that beer is inclusive and not discriminating against a section of humanity, we agree with that because we want everyone to be drinking awesome beer, but just because someone with a more traditional outlook has made a choice to be offended it doesn’t mean it shouldn’t run. As a brewery, if we let organisations like CAMRA dictate how we should brand ourselves and our beers we will have a bleak landscape of samey samey boring beers. Craft breweries have never been more innovative, both in terms of product and marketing, to let an aging, out of touch organisation dictate how breweries position themselves and their products would be detrimental to CAMRA’s own mission of getting more people to drink great beer.