• Fermentum PR

A Bronx Brewery Tale

A case study on what happens when you make a statement, but it lacks authenticity.

Before we get into it, let’s make a few things clear:

  • · This post is not about politics.

  • · If we use the words “wrong/right” or “good/bad” as descriptors throughout this post, we’re not referring to the stances explained. We are referring to the fundamentals behind making any statement.

  • · This brewery is not a client of, nor affiliated with, Fermentum PR.

The case

On June 19, 2020, The Bronx Brewery, based in the South Bronx, announced and released a packaging mock-up for a beer they planned to call “Defund The Police, Fund The Bronx.” The beer was to be brewed in solidarity with protestors who had taken to the streets for weeks since the murder of George Floyd at the hands of a Minneapolis police officer.

Along with the packaging mock-up, The Bronx Brewery released a statement saying they “stand with protesters' calls to Defund The Police”, a promise to donate to an organization that advocates for police reform, and statistics on the incarceration rate in the US.

Why was this statement “good”?

At face value, the statement seems authentic. The brewery is taking a clear stance on a specific issue. While some businesses who expressed similar views as The Bronx Brewery were less direct in the communications surrounding the issue and took less direct action, (i.e. posting a black square,using a hashtag on social media), and were criticized by supporters of the Black Lives Matter movement/organization for not taking a stronger stance, The Bronx Brewery was initially celebrated for their willingness to stand in solidarity with the movement. They seemed fully prepared to put their money and brand to work on this issue that they believed in. They also jumped into the fray using a more nuanced term within the larger movement. Instead of only saying “Black Lives Matter,” they used language that identified them as supporters of a much more polarizing part of the movement: defunding the police.

When you’re making a statement, to quote Toni Boyce, you have to “say it with your whole chest.” In releasing their statement on June 19th, The Bronx Brewery said “Defund the Police” with their collective chest by backing up their words with their promise to take action in the way of donating to an organization that advocates for police reform. The statistics surrounding police brutality and racism in the United States that were included in their statement left the consumer to believe that they took the time to form this statement and were taking action in accordance with their research.

It’s important for any company in making a bold statement to calculate their risk. Surely The Bronx Brewery made a calculation of risk knowing who their customer base was and figured that making this statement wouldn’t hurt the bottom line too much and could potentially even attract new customers. As with any socio-political issue, there are multiple sides and in picking one to stand with, a company must be ready for any backlash. Indeed, taking a stance on any issue all but guarantees backlash of some sort.

How did it become a “bad” statement?

They either didn’t calculate their risk and prepare for backlash, or they never truly believed in the stance they took.

Statements are rarely good or bad on their own (with a few exceptions, of course). It’s how the company upholds the statement that determines how good or bad it is. The statement itself is just an opinion being put out to the public to let them know where the company stands on an issue. The main reason why companies/brands make statements is because they think it will impact their relationship with their current customer base, as well as potential customers.

The first thing The Bronx Brewery, and any business or brand, needed to consider when making their statement, especially around such a sensitive socio-political issue, is that by choosing a side they were going to upset the other side(s). This is true regardless of what the actual statement is. If their initial statement was pro-police instead of defunding the police, the backlash would be the same, just coming from a different side of the issue.

Now fast forward to June 24, 2020. The Bronx Brewery announced they’re no longer brewing “Defund The Police, Fund The Bronx” after five days of backlash on social media and violent threats to their employees. Their initial statement that very clearly detailed where they stood on the issue is now a lukewarm response that doesn’t satisfy any side of the issue.

Their brand now lacks authenticity and the backlash continues, this time, from both sides of the issue.