BrewDog CEO admits gold can fiasco was a ‘£500,000 mistake’

James Watt has taken full responsibility for falsely claiming customers could win a solid-gold can of lager, describing it as a ‘damaging episode’ for the BrewDog business.

brewdogBrewDog CEO and founder James Watt has taken full responsibility for a number of “misleading” posts he made on social media, in which he falsely claimed customers could win a solid gold can, claiming the error has personally cost him £470,000.

The latest apology refers to a competition run by the brewer between late 2020 and early 2021, giving consumers the chance to win gold cans and £15,000 in BrewDog shares. Watt sent out three tweets promoting the competition, stating people could find “solid gold” cans hidden in cases when they were in fact gold-plated and largely made of brass.

“In my enthusiasm, I had misunderstood the process of how they were made and the initial tweets I sent out told customers of the prospect of finding ‘solid gold cans’,” Watt has written on LinkedIn.

“It was a silly mistake and it only appeared in around three of a total of 50 posts about the promotion but as it turns out, those three tweets were enough to do a lot of damage.”

What was looking like one of the best campaigns in our history was now, decidedly, the worst.

James Watt, BrewDog

Watt said the the brand “took a real hammering” on social media and in the press at the time, and was “made to look dishonest and disingenuous”. However, he now admits the business “deserved the flak”.

The promotion also fell foul of the Advertising Standards Authority, which ruled the claim was misleading.

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“What was looking like one of the best campaigns in our history was now, decidedly, the worst,” he says.

In November, Marketing Week columnist Mark Ritson, described the episode as evidence of BrewDog’s lack of authenticity.

“BrewDog names its beers after drugs, weaponry and dead pets. It claims to be the planet’s favourite beer without an ounce of accuracy, concern or reticence,” he wrote. “It offered 10 solid-gold beer cans in a contest that neglected to award even a single solid-gold beer can.”

In today’s post, Watt describes the fall out as “pretty grim” but has taken full ownership for the error, adding “this was my mistake and mine alone and it was on me to fix it”.

Watt says he contacted each winner and offered to pay them out of his own pocket if they were unhappy with their gold-plated can. He claims he has now personally paid £470,000 – “well over two and a half years salary” – to satisfy disgruntled customers, describing the scandal as a “£500,000 mistake”.

BrewDog is no stranger to controversy. Its “anti-sponsor” World Cup campaign came under fire in November, due to the company’s own record on workers’ rights, as well as its decision to continue selling its beers in Qatar and show the matches in its pubs.

Watt has not always taken well to criticism. Earlier this week, for example, he took a swipe at the ASA who had banned another of BrewDog’s ads for falsely claimed its fruit beer contains “one of your five a day”.

“Hazy Jane does not contain any Jane. At all. Not even a little bit of Jane Fonda,” he wrote in a post about the “spot of bother” the brand was facing. He added: “Just to confirm, our beer is not brewed by actual dogs.”