Last week I had a revelation: I think the knee-jerk reaction so many people have to negative or inappropriate events in the craft beer industry coupled with the need to give an expert opinion or criticism is starting to work against the intended effect. Now, I’m not saying we need to be calm as cucumbers for every little thing, but I can’t help but feel like these expressions, well intended as they are, actually help propel certain situations in favor of the party that everyone is rallying against. I even think these outbursts could be purposely solicited by the offending parties as a weapon to gain exposure in some cases.
The trigger that got me thinking about this was a beer that uses the natural bacteria from a woman’s vagina to act as a souring agent making the rounds on social media. Yes, this is a horrible, horrible weird fucking gimmick beer. I don’t support it, won’t support it and am breaking a cardinal rule of my own by even talking about it. However, in order to properly address this stupid shit I need to talk about this beer, but I refuse to link to it.
Let me clarify exactly what my cardinal rule is: if something is inappropriate, inflammatory or generally winds people up, I don’t share it. I don’t lambaste it. I barely fucking acknowledge it. My background is in marketing and having been paid to do it on a daily basis for a while, one thing I’ve learned over the years is the principle of “No press is bad press” is scarily true. Couple that with the rise of the art of Internet Trolling, and you suddenly have a powerful combo that encourages people to, simply put, do stupid shit.
The Connection and the Math
So was this “vaginal” beer and crowdfunding campaign created solely to troll the craft community? Who knows, but the way people shared the link with their comments made me connect it to another instance that I do think was engineered specifically to piss everyone off: the infamous 2015 “Brewed the Hard Way” Super Bowl Ad from Budweiser. People lost their goddamn minds over this ad. If I had taken a drink for every post that used the words “Shots fired!”, I’d be straight up dead right now. I refused to share it. I wasn’t even planning on acknowledging it until someone eventually tagged me in a share and wanted to know my thoughts. My thoughts? “You got trolled, motherfucker.”
Anheuser Bush had just spent a ton of money on buying 10 Barrel and Elysian Breweries. Then they followed that up with a massive spend on that Super Bowl ad. My shitty math skills deduce that AB spent upwards of $9 million on the ad (60 seconds @ 4.4-4.5 mil per 30 seconds). Who did that ad target? The casual beer drinker? Absolutely, BUT I am willing to bet one of my own nuts the ad was also meant to target the craft beer community specifically to piss them off.
Look at it this way: 114.5 million people were supposedly watching this game. Let’s go conservative here and say only a quarter of those people caught that ad. That’s 28,625,000 impressions, or just under 1/10th of the US population. The cost per impression come out to about 31 cents — a pretty descent result for TV. As that impression number increases, the cost per impression decreases.
So now take into account all the shares that subsequently happened once the beer community caught wind of this ad, and that cost was driven right into the fucking ground. I don’t have the desire or capacity to try and track all the views that happened via social sharing, so let’s just agree that it was a METRIC GODDAMN FUCKING SHIT TON. Easily several dozen million more (again, conservative estimate), and you know there were plenty of people seeing this argument who fit the bill of “casual beer drinker” for whom the ad was primarily targeted. This, in effect, makes the ad more effective as their cost per impression drops significantly and makes that $9 million a wiser spend. Do you really want to help AB get the most out of their advertising dollar?
The Troll is the New Con Artist
The infuriated beer community had just given their arch nemesis AB a shitload of free advertising while the marketing department sat back and collected what I can only assume were fat fucking bonus checks the size of our annual incomes. Now, despite the craft community spewing hate, I argue that it still yielded positive results in terms of ad effectiveness. My amateur research (asking my non-beer-bonkers friends what they thought of the ad) yielded an overwhelming response of “I thought it was funny. A bunch of hipsters with funny mustaches.”
This is how the general public views the craft beer community, folks. I’m sure plenty of people know this, but so many others live wrapped up in their own little world with their heads up a can of IPA’s ass, and they forget the things that might make them seethe, is actually funny to the general non-craft public. No amount of “THIS ISN’T RIGHT YOU SHOULD BE MAD” will make that group of casual drinkers change their mind. In fact, it might even reinforce it. Think about it. For all the hundreds or thousands of followers, fans or whatever you have, are you sure that all of them are 100 absofuckinglutely percent craft beer die-hards?
Either way, you just gave AB that many more impressions.
Now, moving away from “Exhibit Superbowl,” and onto “Exhibit Gross Body Secretions Beer,” I witnessed a slow building effect. Thankfully, the steam seemed to die down pretty quickly, but it got me thinking once again about how everyone lost their shit and scored Budweiser some free advertising. I don’t think it’s too far-fetched to apply that same logic from the Bud commercial to this crowdfund campaign on a smaller scale.
If you’re not connecting the dots, let me spell it out: every person who shared the vagina beer’s link, scathing comments or not, gave that group of stupid pricks FREE ADVERTISING FOR THEIR IDEA THAT DISGUSTED AND INFURIATED PEOPLE. Sure, there’s a lot of “Rah rah rah this is bad and awful and who’d be dumb enough to support this” in the craft beer circle jerks, but, for all those who agree with you upon a share, there could be a few idiots who don’t want to barf at the idea. Even with good intentions, you are spreading the word. No press is bad press, folks.
The Bad Child Theory
Again, I’m not saying this vaginal beer is for sure intentionally trolling the craft beer community. If they are, bonus points for trying, but the principle of not giving them free advertising is still very relevant. Ignore this stuff. If something goes out into a void, it will wither up and die. It will be moot. It will be nothing. A tree just fell in the woods and no one was around to share with the internet asking if anyone else just heard a fucking tree fall.
I know many think those who perpetuate this nonsense need scolding and educating and take it upon themselves to administer said scolding and educating, but I argue that even acknowledging them is akin to giving attention to a misbehaving child. Some of them may change their behavior, but plenty of them are acting out just to get that attention.
Most consumers can identify this as bad marketing. “We gotta do something to cut through the clutter cuz there sure as hell is a lot of clutter out there,” is what these people are thinking, but they don’t need scolding for their action. They are thirsty for attention, so giving them that will confirm that their plan worked in some form. The only way to really make sure they go away is to ignore them so they starve and die. Metaphorically speaking, of course.
The Point of all of these Words
Thankfully, the outcry over the vagina beer dwindled quickly and it only became a minor flare up versus a huge thing, so I think it’s fair to say the craft beer scene isn’t the easiest to troll. That said, crafty, possibly evil people exist and can use our good intentions against ourselves making us tools to spread their message. Let’s all pretend that we don’t need to police every single thing that’s wrong in the world. The overwhelming sense of “I MUST LEAD THESE PEOPLE TO THE LIGHT” from a vast number of people is backfiring. Fires are best extinguished with suffocation; share the good, positive stuff you see going around the web. Stop giving assholes that are degrading the industry we love so much a platform to spread their stupidity and gain influence. Don’t help the trolls win.