Punch-up in the BrewDog brewery: Enjoy the schadenfreude, it could be you next

So, let's be honest; we all reached peak schadenfreude last week whilst watching the BrewDog-Scofflaw thing unravel from the smug comfort of our oh-so-perfect, professional high ground.

Schadenfreude is all very well but let's show a bit of industry solidarity too, writes Adam Mack

As I said during my Tough Mudder this weekend when someone fell on their arse to the bottom of a five-metre wall we were climbing – it’s un-PC to admit it, but there are few things more self-affirming than watching others fail while you scale the heights.

But that doesn’t mean that you can’t be the bigger person and help them back up again.

This is perhaps something those firing the more snide comments at Frank this past week would do well to remember.

Here’s the issue in a nutshell: agency issues press release saying its client is going to give free beer to UK Trump supporters at a bar chain, without the prior knowledge of said bar chain; the latter pulls the event when it finds out, falls out with beer brand (who declares the release erroneous) and the agency blames a rogue employee (suspended pending an enquiry) for said release.

That’s what the public record suggests.

In reality, we’ve all been around the block enough to know that things aren’t always what they seem.

Whatever happened, two things are very clear: someone screwed up and channelling Trump (either pro or anti) will get you publicity.

The question is, is it good publicity?

For BrewDog, probably. They reacted with affront, saying that the activity was completely at odds with their values (activity such as ‘Bar on the Edge’ and ‘Make Earth Great Again’ back this up).

— BrewDog (@BrewDog) 27 September 2018

In cancelling the whole event and offering free Punk to anyone standing for 'love' over hate, they turned the situation hugely to their advantage. Indeed, they couldn’t have planned it better if they’d tried - the whole ‘provoke-outrage-apology’ thing is very much in their modus operandi and, despite losing a friend in Scofflaw (let’s face it, they threw them under the bus), their brand has likely benefitted rather than suffered.

For Scofflaw, possibly. Few had really heard of them before last week and there’s a chance that some of the people who’ve heard of them now are Brexiteers who like a bit of Trump.

Their release on Friday deploring BrewDog’s post may have helped them retain a few more liberal drinkers.

I’d imagine the venn diagram of hipster craft ale drinkers and UK Trump supporters will have a very slim overlap. And I can’t see Farage drinking it – he’s more of a warm, yeasty, bitter man.

For Frank, not so much.

It’s a bit of a cliché but we all know it’s never good for a PR agency to be the headline, especially when a mistake’s been made.

But it’s easy to judge without being in full possession of facts.

What we do know is that they acted quickly to identify the problem and took decisive action against their ‘rogue element', which is what any decent agency would do for a client in crisis.

So, whilst we might enjoy the schadenfreude, let’s not kid ourselves that this couldn’t happen to any of us.

And let’s show a bit of industry solidarity.

Adam Mack is UK chief executive of W Communications

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