Last month, we featured this ad in the Great British Beer Festival programme, with the narrow-minded belief that it might put an end to a few things that are bringing our cherished industry down. Apparently, the first point warrants further explanation.
First off, I want to make it clear that this isn’t about feminism – or the use of female imagery. This is about common sense.
Gleefully for us beer lovers, we live in an age where we are entirely spoilt for choice – DIPA’s, TIPA’s, chocolate beer, beer made with unicorn sparkles – well, kind of, but you get the idea. But for the brewer, this means working in a very competitive market. That competitiveness has meant that us marketeers have had to be on our toes when it comes to finding and securing market share. We’re also in the generous position of having a million tools at our fingertips to market our beloved beers. Innovation has never been easier. We can stream a video of what we are brewing to a live audience, we can run a poll with hundreds of people on which beer we make next, we can see real time product reviews, we can even collaborate with brewing buddies all over the world. The possibilities are endless.
So why on God’s green earth are we still using this to promote beers?
“Oh it’s just a bit of fun”. Really? Is it, really? I need you to use your imagination here for a second, just to translate what this imagery means. This is undoubtedly a provocative image of a scantily clad female. Granted, most people will look at it and not take a second glance. There are some people however, who will look at that image and even comment on the attractiveness, and even sexy nature of the woman portrayed in this image. Some may even go so far as to make noises about their desires for a woman of the same ‘design’. When that happens is where the problem is. Once people feel that it’s ok to admire a scantily clad person, as added to a bottle or pump clip by their brewery of choice – it also sends the message that it’s ok to view people generally in such an objective manner. Is this the message we should be sending to our customers? That it’s ok to lech over and cat call people because ‘it’s a bit of fun’. Sorry to get serious here – but is this the kind of lesson you’d like your children to learn? That it’s ok to act like this – and what’s more, it’s ok to be on the receiving end of this behaviour?
I also want to be clear again that I am not just standing up for the scantily clad females here. I’m standing up for anyone who agrees that it’s not cool to objectify men or women by encouraging others to view them in such way that doesn’t respect their privacy or personal preferences. In short, if you wouldn’t treat a friend that way – don’t treat a stranger that way.
‘Oh but I don’t find it sexist or objectifying’ – people, come on. Let’s be a little less selfish here – you might not find it offensive, but part of being a decent human being is giving consideration to what might offend others. What about the beer lover stood next to you, who feels insecure about being looked at as an object of sexual gratification? In much the same way that you observe the cultural traditions of local people when visiting a new country, we all have a duty to do the decent thing and think about other people’s opinions and feelings when we market our products. We live in a (relatively) free world – which gives people the opportunity to choose how they want be viewed by others – lets not force that choice on people by sexualising the human form. Earlier this week, we saw the highest French court lift a ban on burkinis, saying that it ‘violated basic freedoms’ – the freedom to choose what was worm on the beach, and moreover what other people were able to see of their bodies on the beach, in accordance with their own cultural beliefs. I’m not saying that beer labelling is the same – but I hope it doesn’t take a genius to figure out the parallel I am drawing here.
I’m in danger of getting even more sanctimonious but if one day I find myself in the fortuitous position of having children – I want to teach them that they can be whatever they CHOOSE to be. I don’t want them to accept that they may one day be forced into being jeered at and leched over because other people have learnt that it’s ok. Sadly, in 2013- 2014, 30% of girls and 20% of boys aged 10-15 said they were already unhappy with how they looked. Is this hardly surprising when they are surrounded by images of scantily clad women, with generous curves, tiny waists and unobtainable figures? This is a global issue, but one that the brewing industry has a part to play in.
This isn’t about feminism; this is about the freedom to choose, and more importantly sexual equality.
So, let’s stick to brewing beers – not turning our industry back to the stone age with lazy marketing. Quite frankly, if you need to use a naked person to sell your beer, it’s the brewing that should be looked at – not the marketing. There are a myriad of talented designers, the world over, let’s give them something more exciting to work on.
If you need me, I’ll be burning my bra.
Woman. Beer Lover (yes, and not just the fruit based ones). Maybe mother one day. Prepared to say what she thinks today. Marketing Manager at Dark Star Brewing Co. everyday…thanks to social media, but loves it.