Swearing as a PR strategy: how big and clever is it?

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So BrewDog, the craft beer brewery, has responded to latest criticism from the Portman Group in typical form: “I would like to issue a formal apology to the Portman Group for not giving a shit about today’s ruling”, said James Watt, BrewDog’s co-founder. “Indeed, we are sorry for never giving a shit about anything the Portman Group has to say.”


This latest dispute echoes last year’s public stand-off when BrewDog claimed to disregard a ruling from the Advertising Standards Authority, referring to the body as “motherfuckers”, as well as another clash with the Portman Group back in 2009.

All these public clashes of course are grist to the brewery’s mill. Like Virgin and Ryannair before it, BrewDog knows there’s money to be made from playing rebellious outsider to industry giants. In terms of PR and marketing, there’s a stream of exciting content to be generated – typified on the BrewDog blog – which the beer maker’s loyal fanbase will happily consume.

But BrewDog is no longer an “outsider”. It’s Scotland’s largest independently owned brewery and a global business, producing around 120,000 bottles a month for export. Nor can it claim it isn’t a “brand”, as one comment on this article suggests (“so what are you then, a tea cozy?”).

From Alan Sugar through Gordan Ramsey to Michael O’Leary, we’re getting familiar with the idea of the business leader that swears. It’s no longer that fresh and new. James Watt claims that BrewDog’s customers are smart and savvy enough to know that the irreverance and “punk” attitude is all part of the brewery’s tone of voice – something not to take too seriously.

But if Tennents Super and Special Brew started using the same tactics, there’d be an outcry. So we get one rule for cool middle class geezers, and another for everyone else.

Photo credit: Justin Green

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  1. Pingback: Brewdog bark at Portman Group | City Distilled

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