I’m back. And I’m not happy.

Last night it came to my (and a whole bunch of other beer peeps) attention that Vale Bru had gone full sexist in their “new line” of beers.

If you don’t know Vale Bru – you’re not alone. They’re a tiny beer brand based in Edenvale; now I say “beer brand” carefully. They don’t brew beer. They have a label (which started out as clothing/caps etc.) and they collaborated with Swagga in Alrode to brand a beer (initially, the blonde) for the Vale. Let’s be clear about this: It’s Swagga beer in Vale labels.

It all started innocuously: Vale Bru was one beer – a blonde, but now they have “launched” three other beers: A red ale, an IPA and a Porter (still Swagga beers in those bottles) while renaming their Blonde. Which sounds cool – until you see the labels/discs/release notes:

 

After various posts and comments calling them out went viral, they responded:

WhatsApp Image 2018-06-04 at 23.49.07
Not much of an apology. More of a #sorrynotsorry

I have plenty to say about this. I have said plenty about this already. Check it out on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. In the meantime, here are some lessons courtesy of Vale Bru for aspiring brewers and brand managers.

Beer 101:

  • IndiaN Pale Ale isn’t a style. India Pale is. Know your industry.
  • A “gusher” is a common beer term for an infected beer. Know your trade.
  • If you don’t brew, don’t get defensive when “beer nerds” correct you.

Marketing 101:

  • Don’t name your beers after women’s hair colour. It’s lazy and unoriginal.
  • Bad publicity isn’t always good publicity.
  • Sexy is not always sexist. Know the difference.
  • If you need half naked women (or the insinuation of sex) to sell, your product needs work.
  • Consult with other people around you, including those of different sex, race, religion or culture. Just to be sure. And listen to them if they have reservations.
  • “Moist” beer? Really? Don’t pretend that adding a word like “moist” wasn’t a poor attempt at sexualising your beer, even when you stick a stock image onto the original.
  • If you’re going to apologise, do it unconditionally. And CHANGE what you did wrong. It’s like saying “Sorry but…”, if there’s a “but”, it’s not an apology.
  • Keep it classy. Having a cheeky brand is awesome, but make sure you’re not being offensive at the same time.
  • If you want to be clever, like Nando’s, you also have to know where the line is. Normally you can tell by what the big issues of the day are. #Metoo, Rape culture and Trump’s “locker room” misogyny are not funny. These are real problems that society is trying to deal with. Don’t go there.

I wonder what Vale Bru (and Swagga) will do now. There are few people defending them (friends and family I suspect), but the vast majority of women and men have stood up against this nonsense. My advice is: Fix it and apologise sincerely.

Update: Two days after this post was written (7 June) Vale Bru posted another apology – this one far more thoughtful – on their FB page where they pledge to remove these labels, rethink their branding and consult inclusively from here on. Some are still skeptical and calling it thinly veiled, or legally mandated but I think it’s only fair that we give them a chance to make good on their promises. Let’s hope that other brands, regardless of industry, learn from this too.

The apology: https://www.facebook.com/valexvix/posts/414544925623397.

 

 

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9 comments

  1. It’s just another stupid thing people are doing nowadays. Our society has a lot more problems (and more important) than crucified a company that just want to sell good beers. It’s more then time to stop with this BS.

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    • With respect, this is one of society’s issues. It’s certainly not the only one sure, but it doesn’t mean that its any less important. I’ve posted my response to their apology – that we should allow Vale to redeem themselves, through action. So we’ll see where it goes from here.

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  2. At this stage of craft beer and marketing maturity I am cynical of the initial outrageous labels and prompt follow-up. It is so “over the top” that I suspect they staged the entire news cycle from beginning to end. Awful stuff. They played on the obvious backlash to generate loads of free publicity.

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    • Hey David! A lot of people agree with you I’m afraid. I’m a little less cynical (or maybe more so!) in that I don’t think they had the foresight to plan this. I honestly think that they thought it was funny. Either way they got exposure, but you can’t put pressure on something without exposing it. So it’s a bit of a double edged sword.

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  3. You know when the ad says “all your friends have already had her” they’re talking about the beer, right? The joke is it sounds like they’re referring to an actual person, but they’re not, it’s in your head, like a Freudian slip, see it’s not actually referring to a woman, or any woman, that’s the j…. sigh, so the British love of Innuendo is officially dead it seems lol

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    • Hey Winston. Thanks for stopping by. I wasn’t really in need of your “mansplaining” .. and especially when you’re wrong. A Freudian Slip happens when you say something you didn’t mean to say but you actually were thinking- like revealing a subconscious truth. So even if this was a “slip” it would say quite a lot about the minds that said it. That being said.. it was very clear that the beers were fashioned after women. Not just women.. but “conquests” – all for the taking. Notches on a belt, so to speak. Even if that doesn’t make sense to you.. would you like to have “something all your friends have already had” or you you prefer to have something special? If it’s “common”.. why bother? Adding to that : “filthy” and “gushing”? Doesn’t sound like tasty beer to me. Even if it was “just about beer”.

      If you read on a bit, you’ll see that they’ve apologised and removed the labels. So for now, let’s see how they move forward in a more respectful way.

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  4. There is another (craft) beer with a name of f@kof that for me is just as bad. If you ask a waiter if they serve craft beer, and their reply includes this beer, I just wander a) how does my partner feel about the name b) what does the waiter feel by having to announce it c) what if I am with small kids in a restaurant. I cannot understand why mature people would brand their product in such a way as to “look for trouble”. Is our marketing so lame that they have to stoop so low to get attention? Is it a matter of throwing out all morals to make a buck or two?

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    • Really interesting that you bring this one up. I must say, personally, I don’t see an issue with it – because the band that “makes” it is called F@kof Polisie Kar – so to me it’s contextual. But I also don’t have an issue with foul language as much as I do with other things. Depends on the gratutitousness I suppose. We’ve all got the things that get to us. Funny story – but whenever someone (including one of us) swears in front of my child (8) we tease him and say “Name’ don’t swear!” and he always laughs and says that he hasn’t etc. But it’s a way to deflect the attention off the language.

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