One company that I really look up to is BrewDog, the (some would say) outrageous Scottich brewery that has gone from starting in the founder's garage to now being in over 30 markets globally and with a 100 million pounds valuation. All achieved in less than a decade. They have proven that the power of strong identity and original ideas can slingshot a company into global markets without any conventional marketing. But they really have had to be fearless in their business to do that; to sacrifice ridicule and criticism, and to do what they truly believe in. I had the chance to interview James Watt for my book 'Why We Fear', here is how the conversation went down...
HH: How important was "End Of History" in BrewDogs success? (It seems that after that business really took of)
JW: The End of History was an adventure in elevating the status of beer. To show people that beer is art. We pushed the boundaries of brewing by making this a 55% beer, and the packaging had to reflect that groundbreaking step. Taxidermy seemed the most logical and least sane way to go about this, which ticked all the boxes for me! It brought our beer under the spotlight, for sure, and it showed our goal; to make other people as passionate about great beer as we are.
HH: You decided to package the beer in squirrels and stoats, how did you came up with that idea?
JW: Drinkers in the UK are constrained by lack of choice; seduced by the monolithic corporate brewers huge advertising budgets and brainwashed by vindictive lies perpetrated with the veracity of propaganda. We needed to rise high above the noise of the mega-breweries without compromising on our belief in creating a great product that pushes the boundaries of what beer is. This was beer as art.
HH: If this was the idea that got executed, what were the rejected ideas?
JW: A shark. But not many people have shelves big enough for a taxidermy shark.
HH: How did you cope with the reaction from animal rights activists and the Portman Group? I know how you coped with it publicly, but inside the company and as persons, did you feel any pressure or worry and how did you cope with that?
JW: It was great! Sure, it was pretty intense but seeing the reaction was incredible. Shock was what we set out to do. And shock we did.
HH: Can you give an advice about authenticity in business world? You've certainly found your way, but what are the basic ideas behind your thinking?
JW: Passion. It’s sounds like such a simple idea, but passion for whatever it is you are creating is often the difference between success and failure.
HH: Some of the stories written about BrewDog mention that BrewDog does not use any money to traditional marketing, is that still the case? (Mr Watt said in one interview that'I would rather take my money and set fire to it" rather than put it in traditional media.
JW: That sentiment still stands. Yes
HH: Do you have any numbers or estimates about the social media impact of "The End Of History"? (reach, retweets, did you see that in your web site and sales?)
JW: Over 10,000 mentions on Twitter. The story was the most shared article on the BBC home page for two days - generating over 600,000 unique page views in its first few hours. It also topped the 'most viewed' league table on the CNN and Fox News websites.
HH: What was the estimated value of earned media (news clippings, stories written about the product)
JW: The AEV in its first week was £650,000. The story appeared in all but one of Britain’s national newspapers.
HH: I think that doing these kinds of things in business is as close as it gets to making art and being an artist in business world. Do you have any thoughts on that?
JW: I’d have to agree. I think my exact quote at the time was “The impact of The End of History is a perfect conceptual marriage between taxidermy, art and craft brewing. The bottles are at once beautiful and disturbing – they disrupt conventions and break taboos, just like the beer they hold within them.”