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No more silly stunts, when will brands start talking to women as equals?

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Liz Bleakley, head of business and consumer services at Democracy lets off some steam around Brewdog’s PINK IPA just in time for International Women’s Day

Here I am on the eve of another day, created especially for my ‘species’. Delightful. Personally, I don’t need a day to celebrate how inspiring and able my female peers are – but hey, I’ll take it.

This year is likely to be particularly interesting. #MeToo, the Time’s Up movement and the gender pay gap have been placed at the top of the agenda for 2018 and it’s difficult not to perceive real momentum calling for change. Even the BBC is taking action… it really feels like there’s change coming, right?

In which case, International Women’s Day (IWD) is set to be corker.

IWD dates back to 1908, after the idea was tabled in Germany. Backed by a further 17 countries it launched on March 19th, transferring to March 8th in 1913 where it’s stayed ever since and was officially recognised by the UN in 1975.

Each year has a theme (this year’s being #PressforProgress) and still addresses the principles it set up with more than 100 years ago – to celebrate women and push for their equality.

110 years later, the gender pay gap is still at large and the World Economic Forum predicts it’s here to stay until 2186. I’ll let you process that for a minute.

With a serious topic that directly impacts half of the world’s population, I’m keen to see which brands jump on this important bandwagon in a bid for audience engagement – and which are in it for the long haul.

First up, BrewDog. Often hailed as an example of a great start up with fantastic PR, this time they’ve transformed their PUNK IPA into PINK IPA with a label to match. Lovely stuff.

Quickly jumping to its own defence the label declares; ‘Beer is for everyone, and gender is not defined by colour’. Those who identify as women can also buy it for a reduced price in a bar. Gee, thanks. Sounds to me like a badly told joke.

Brewed especially for International Women’s Day, BrewDog will be donating 19 per cent of the proceeds (the gender pay gap) to causes that fight for gender equality. Fair play, that sounds nice, but I can’t help but feel just a weeny bit cynical.

Am I more likely to buy this beer because it’s got a pink label? No.

Am I more likely to buy this beer knowing that some proceeds go to a good cause? Probably not.

Am I more aware of BrewDog, as a consumer, because of this stunt? Yep.

Do BrewDog regularly donate to this cause – is it close to their heart? Let’s see…

A quick look at BrewDog’s records reveals that just one in 18 of its previous and current directors/registered officers was a woman and as far as I can tell, it’s not an issue that’s been on the agenda for them before – not publicly anyway.

‘In an age where authenticity is everything, brands need to be careful’

The female head of marketing has been wheeled out to talk about how this stunt will help attract women into the industry and it’s meant to be satire, but would you feel inclined to look for roles there now? There’s no irony in ‘if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em’.

Cause marketing is more effective than ever before. Consumers in 2018 care an awful lot more about where they spend their money and what the impact of it is, but let’s not get carried away.

Short-term CSR activity is transparent. In an age where authenticity is everything, brands need to be careful in spending thousands to secure promotion for their product in order to donate funds to charity which, in all probability, are unlikely to match the investment in the campaign in the first place.

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Johnnie Walker was burnt by a similar campaign to encourage women to drink whisky  and Doritos were dragged over the coals just a few weeks ago when they suggested women required less crunchy, quieter crisps. When will brands learn?

Here’s the thing; people being paid a fair salary for doing a good job, regardless of what is or is not between their legs is only right. If this is a cause close to your heart, or that of your brand, then own it. Otherwise pick something else more suitable. No complex maths, no rocket science.

Courting controversy isn’t always worth it.

Let’s not be led to believe, by brands, stunts and social media, that there are just a few days a year where gender inequality should be addressed.

Anyway, cheers! I’m off for a pint of proper beer, from a pump, with a blue label, or whatever takes my fancy because that’s what I do – any day of the year!

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