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BrewDog aims to rebuild brand in first marketing campaign since ‘toxic workplace’ controversy

BrewDog has been hit by a number of controversies since an open letter accused bosses of fostering fear in the workplace.
BrewDog has been hit by a number of controversies since an open letter accused bosses of fostering fear in the workplace.

Aberdeenshire beer giant BrewDog has launched its first new marketing campaign since its brand was battered by accusations of a toxic workplace.

In June, dozens of former employees of the brewery signed an open letter saying bosses fostered fear in their staff and were responsible for “lies, hypocrisy and deceit”.

Founder James Watt issued an apology in response, but his company was plagued by negative headlines for the following month after a number of further incidents unrelated to the letter.

Using the slogan Beer For All, the new campaign aims to shift focus away from the controversies and towards the brewery’s sustainability and universality.

BrewDog co-founder James Watt. Picture by Darrell Benns

A 90-second TV advert, which premiered on August 7, insists that the company’s beer is not just for “laughing hipsters”, but “for everyone” – including “meat-eaters”, “vegetarians”, “happy couples” and “people who believe in aliens”.

It continues by saying: “We’re the world’s first carbon-negative brewery, and plant trees for every beer you drink.”

The advert ends with a woman shown drinking a bottle of Heineken, before a can of Punk IPA is quickly superimposed on top.

Brewery rocked by accusations

BrewDog’s brand was significantly impacted by the controversy that followed the penning of the open letter two months ago by a group calling itself Punks With Purpose.

Industry publication Marketing Week reports that the brewery’s score on YouGov’s BrandIndex, which measures impression, quality, value, satisfaction, likelihood to recommend and reputation, fell from 18.9 to 4.7 in the wake of the publication.

Reactions to the new BrewDog campaign on Twitter appear to suggest the bad image has not been shaken entirely, with one person commenting: “Do the[y] make beer for people bullied at work?”

Tagging the founder and chief executive, another Twitter user wrote: “It’d be better to get your house in order @BrewDogJames than just change the message through PR.

“Be clear about what change you’re making and prove it rather than soften people up for the IPO.”

In response, Mr Watt sent a link to a social media post detailing the measures his company would be taking, including a full review of its culture by an independent consultancy firm, an anonymous staff survey, and the conducting of exit interviews.

In the weeks after the open letter, the brewery was hit by several other controversies, including the banning of an Instagram advert for its hard seltzer, claims of false advertising after a can it had said was made of solid gold turned out to be mainly brass, and revelations that a quarter of its shares are held in the Cayman Islands.

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