Crisis management the BrewDog way

A great crisis management statement from BrewDog was released on 27 March 2017. It announced their decision to back down over the Lone Wolf trademark dispute with a family run pub in Birmingham.

Here’s the basics of the situation to set the scene and bring you up to speed. BrewDog have a vodka named Lone Wolf and a family team had plans to use the same name for their pub. But, BrewDog’s lawyers stepped in and issued them with a legal warning, so the pub has had to re-brand as the ‘Wolf’.

The Guardian wrote an initial report about the situation and this is when things get interesting. From this article BrewDog received a lot of consumer backlash and the comment that struck a nerve seems to be the accusation that it’s “just another multinational corporate machine”.

BrewDog has built it’s reputation on being the opposite of this and often speaks out against large, faceless brewing firms. Their lawyer’s actions directly challenged what the company stands for, so it’s understandable why these comments were made and why BrewDog needed to take action.

Cue amazing crisis statement.

James Watt (@BrewDogJames) tweeted on March 27, 2017 (this tweet has since been deleted): 

Our lawyers got a bit trigger happy. We are happy for the Lone Wolf Bar in Birmingham to keep using the name.

In a statement, James Watt, the BrewDog founder added: “Although they wear suits and are mostly sensible folks, lawyers can sometimes go a bit crazy and forget the kind of business we are and how we behave. They are sorry for their actions and we have put them on washing up duty for a week.”

Watt also offered to send some of their new vodka to the pub, as part of the apology.

I applaud Watt and his PR team for approaching this differently. I think the term ‘put them on washing up duty for a week’ making the national press will stay firmly printed on my mind for a while as a bit of a PR win. It’s so easy to get bogged down in the seriousness of the situation but, no one’s died or physically harmed and a bit of light humour just reminds everyone of that and diffuses the situation a bit. It’s a bold move and I think here it pays off.

This hilarious statement was very on brand for the company but, many still didn’t think it was enough.

The statement courted further consumer comments that BrewDog hadn’t done enough and should reimburse the team at the Wolf for their re-branding expenses.

Out of pocket they may be, but all is not bad for The Wolf in Birmingham. This publicity is more PR than the bar would have ever got. This escapade has brought it to the attention of a much larger audience and put it on the map. Now, The Wolf has a potential money making spirit deal with BrewDog that could make them a legitimate player in the drinks industry.

Up to this point The Guardian have a brilliant article about BrewDog’s management of their lawyer’s over-zealous actions. It explains everything far more eloquently than I do. There has, however, been some further developments.

In an update to The Guardian’s article, James Watt has tweeted that BrewDog would cover all the costs incurred by the Wolf pub and invited them to collaborate on a gin with them.

So, to Watt’s credit, he has supported his brand’s ethos by reaffirming what the brands stands for through his actions. In other words, he’s done the right thing by the owners of The Wolf. This action is more in keeping with the brand’s values and behaviours. It took Watt a day to get there but, hey, he got there and humorously stuck to his guns and beliefs.

Whether you believe that managers of BrewDog didn’t know what their lawyers were up to or not, it’s a great example of crisis management, staying on brand and making things right.

Crisis on this scale is very hard to manage when you have multiple stakeholders involved, a strong brand ethos and the national press keeping a keen eye on proceedings. Getting the tone right and taking action has quickly paid off, this was all cleared up by the end of yesterday. And, if The Wolf takes them up on the gin offer, both will benefit from further good publicity and PR. Winner.

It’s a great bit of PR crisis management and I have to thank Laura, my very talented colleague at work, for pointing this one out.

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