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:
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.
- 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.
- 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.