Brutally Honest Branding: Newcastle Brown Ale (Brand Case Study)

Newcastle-brown-aleHow did Newcastle Brown Ale become the fastest growing brand on Facebook?

Brutal honesty.

And a heavy-handed pour of dry humor. (Or should that be dry humour for the Brits?)

The brewery’s partnership with creative agency Droga5 bumped their Facebook page up from 59,384 ‘Likes’ to 661,771 ‘Likes’ (a 1,114% increase) – though they’ve added another 100k ‘Likes’ since those statistics were published. But the campaign wasn’t a shallow grab at social media space…

Sales also increased 9%.

Newcastle’s New Way of Branding

What are Newcastle’s advertising secrets? To hear it from their side, there are no secrets. As Fast Company’s Rae Ann Fera writes, “Newcastle Brown Ale cut the crap to cut through the clutter.” Of course, there’s a little more to it than that…

Fera quotes the advertising agency’s strategy director, Tom Naughton, saying, “Guys would say, we know why cans that turn blue exist. They exist to sell beer. So why don’t you just cut to the chase? So we said, Let’s pull back the veil on stupid, deceitful, and deceptive tactics, and let people know exactly what we want. We want to entertain you, but we also want your money.”

… which is exactly what Newcastle gave and received.

The Best Coaster in the World


The Best Coaster in the World is a fitting place to start when looking into the Newcastle brand. As “the most socially connected coaster ever,” it links users to Twitter, Pinterest, Facebook, Instagram, and six other social media sites. Some of the profiles are flops. The Twitter handle, for example, hasn’t been updated since April 2, and the LinkedIn profile isn’t even accessible because – would you believe it? – I don’t have any common connections with the Best Coaster in the World.

In fairness, the Best Coaster in the World campaign seems to have been abandoned in early April for the greater “No Bollocks” campaign…

No Bollocks

The basic idea behind “No Bollocks” is that we can see through beer ads (and all advertising, really). So, why not poke fun at the idea that the phrase “handcrafted beer” and flashy neon signs actually mean something in terms of building brand awareness? You can check out all of Newcastle’s 15-second spots here. As they say…

Highlights from the “No Bollocks” videos include these copy gems, all underscored by a jaunty polka ditty:

  •  “… Great times guaranteed, unless you’re having a crap time. Then we can’t guarantee much at all.”
  • “In 1927, Colonel James Porter handcrafted Newcastle Brown Ale. But handcrafting was a nightmare. So, now we handcraft the same delicious beer with huge, giant machines.”
  • “[Newcastle Brown Ale:] handcrafted by master brewers, and hand photoshopped by underpaid interns.”

Newcastle’s Social Media Presence

Newcastle’s Facebook page uses the same cheeky, dry humor. In fact, they may even be stepping it up a bit with Facebook cover photos like these:

Other fun Facebook add-ins include the Newcastle Subtexter, which allows fans to essentially create their own “No Bollocks”-inspired memes.

(Source: AdWeek)

What I love about the Newcastle No Bollocks campaign is that it’s authentic all the way through. There’s never a single moment in which the brand pulls back and tries to use any form of traditional beer marketing. Even when they feature a sweat-beaded beer glass with a perfect head of foam they make fun of the fact that it’s photoshopped.

It seems that brutal honesty is working for the Newcastle brand. The question is, can you make it work for your brand?

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Ben Richardson is a writer based in Nashville, TN. While he loves writing on a variety of subjects, he's our go-to on all things related to branding and the creative aspects of content marketing. Follow him on Twitter!

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