May 7th 2014

Brand honesty rocks

by Martin O'Toole

BrewDog understands that having a giant set of bollocks can be a benefit for a brand, so why not use them?

Following a recent investigation into BrewDog allegedly encouraging anti-social behaviour in a recent brand campaign, the Portman Group ruled that the controversial Scottish brewer had breached alcohol marketing practice codes. This week, BrewDog's co-founder (James Watt), infamous for his brutal honesty once again shocked the media with another nonchalant yet bold response to his friends at The Portman Group. His full statement can be read on The Drum's site, but to give you flavour, it kicked off like this:

“On behalf of BrewDog PLC and its 14,691 individual shareholders, I would like to issue a formal apology to the Portman Group for not giving a shit about today’s ruling. Indeed, we are sorry for never giving a shit about anything the Portman Group has to say, and treating all of its statements with callous indifference and nonchalance.”

And it ended like this:

“We sincerely hope that the sarcasm of this message fits the Portman Group criteria of responsible use of humour.”

In a recent interview, their PR (Alex Myers, Manifesto London) discussed Watt's open use of language as well as the drivers behind the BrewDog brand and its infamous shock tactics. What's impressed me for some time and what resonated for me once more was the use of total and utter brand honesty. We should be under no illusion that the brand's consumer marketing activity is simply all about shock tactics. In fact, Myers points out that the only limits to the brand messages are ensuring continued relevance to the target audience. Commonsense? Perhaps to some but not to many.

But is BrewDog being shocking for the sake of it, or is it actually simply being entirely true to the values of the brand - and its consumers? If the latter, should we marketers be considering that, with the comms platforms available to us now, we should all be 'opening' up our brands - stripping out the fluff and condescending nature of a lot of our brand messaging and instead, turning our brand strategies to honesty? As in total, transparent, clear as day brand honesty. After all, thanks to the Zero Moment of Truth, it's very difficult for brands nowadays to pretend to be something they're not.

What BrewDog have done from the label and brand campaigns right up to the co-founder's press statements is be a real, honest and true brand. The co-owner swears in statements because he swears in real life. And he's not interested in portraying something he is not. Furthermore, he (and his colleagues) wants the same for his brand. So yes, BrewDog has a giant set of bollocks. As consumers expect more honesty from brands and brand marketing, it seems an obvious opportunity for brands to form a more useful relationship with their customers.

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