Remember the ‘light’ promotional discussion Coopers and The Bible Society had around gay marriage in Australia? What likely sounded like an excellent idea in the board room quickly spreading like wildfire into an all-time classic PR nightmare. Instantly, loyal customers made it clear “bibles and beer don’t mix”.
The damage was done. Good intentions had failed. The creative campaign had back fired. What a fiasco! It was code red for the humble beer company. Pubs had distanced themselves by taking them off the taps – the brand had completely under estimated the culture of their customer. It was a wonderful spectacle to behold – get the popcorn… let’s see this iconic family business try and wiggle its way out this one.
A pint of anything but Coopers, please.”
Even still, months down the track it was like TimTams releasing a One Nation edition – surely they would be feeling the impact and I doubt there would be brand managers with Coopers on their resume… and this is all from “wanting to encourage a light conversation on a heavy topic”. The #boycottcoopers hashtag still lingers. So in an attempt to calm the situation, Coopers announced their long term partnership with The Bible Society along with many other causes they believed in. In fact, they very nearly released the special-edition packaging (with bible verses on the carton) to celebrate The Bible Society’s 200th birthday. This caused beer drinkers to ask them selves, “what the hell am I actually supporting by buying this brand?”
An apology was made; Coopers was “incredibly saddened” by the community’s feedback and are committed to “embracing all Australians”… And they were slightly more sincere than the epic Johnny Depp dog immigration apology. Still, the youtube comments started flooding in… too little, too late. In a crowded product category – people will simply vote with their wallets. Apparently, the brand had “been supportive of diversity and encouraged individualism” all along. The tide had turned, Coopers now wanted Australians to know “our company supports marriage equality.”
Their brand values seem to miraculously pivot from mildly Christian to Liberalism. So why did it take this colossal fuck up to suddenly change their tune? Surely if they did support gay marriage – more could have been done to raise and support the issue long before this bad press. I would be ONLY buying Coopers if they had previously made a real positive stance on this issue. With the intent to truly support a cause, imagine the positive impact an organisation of their scale could have made.
Apart from the devastation of seeing a good beer in a bad light, it’s done a great service to highlighting the importance of acting on brand values. What you stand for should reverberate through everything you do, and most importantly – what you don’t do. It also raises the topic – When is it wrong for a brand to step over the line, and when is it appropriate for a brand to wholeheartedly align with an issue?