The latest installment in Newcastle Brown Ale’s snarky, social-media fueled “No Bollocks” campaign is poking fun at traditional beer advertising and its recent focus on the can. And in this case, Budweiser’s much-heralded “bowtie” can is in the cross hairs.
Bud’s limited edition can was introduced in April after three years of development and a significant capital investment. Newcastle, part of Heineken USA, is essentially calling it a can with a couple of dents, like something you’d find on the street.
“Introducing the new, Newcastle Brown Ale bow-tie can,” Newcastle wrote on its Facebook page. “It’s our regular can with the sides pushed in. Innovation! #NoBollocks.”
The image drew thousands of Facebook likes and hundreds of Twitter retweets and favorites. Not to mention, it sat atop Reddit’s Beer board for an extended period of time. However, Newcastle found out that social-media snark cuts both ways. A commenter asked if the can is meant to “hide the fact” that Newcastle uses artificial coloring to get its caramel tint, not toasted barley.
That prompted the brand to get serious. “We will explore the situation as well as potential alternatives for this ingredient,” Newcastle posted in a reply on Facebook, assuring the commenter that the caramel coloring is “well below the California legal standards, which are the toughest in the country.”
Regarding the spoof ad, “we’re an irreverent brand, and we’re poking fun at industry conventions,” Charles van Es, a Heinken USA senior brand director, said in a statement to Ad Age. “In our advertising we also make fun of ourselves all the time. Similar to our neon signs in the on-premise (A $400 sign to sell a $6 beer), our ‘No Bollocks’ approach takes a refreshingly honest look at the world of beer.”
Why Am I Curious?
I like that New Castle is poking fun at innovation that consists entirely of silly packaging and it is neat that it fits well within their larger brand image and campaign. However, if you are going to make a blatant jab at others, you should be ready for attacks as well. To me, it is pretty amazing how one comment from one consumer completely changed the tone of the conversation around New Castle’s campaign as it went from being a social success to a PR crisis where the company had to acknowledge the situation and respond seriously.