A Brewer’s Tale

Real-AleMany years ago, fed up with the weak and overpriced beer that they had to buy from the pub landlords, some workers set up their own brewery. They didn’t have much experience, but over the years they developed a rich and tasty brew that was both healthy and popular among the working classes – so much so that after the war it became the best selling beer in Britain. The brewery was called the Red Flag and was run as a sort of co-op where workers and customers could buy shares in it and appoint the Chief Brewer. Each Chief made small adjustments to the recipe, and sales went up and down according to the fashion of the day.

There then came a period when sales went into a slow decline. Some members of the co-op said that there weren’t as many workers to buy their Labour-rose_logobeer anymore, and that tastes had changed – people didn’t like the full-flavoured dark ale that the brewery produced. To be successful, they needed to attract a new type of customer. They appointed a new Chief to develop a lighter and sweeter beer, and brought in some marketing consultants to help them sell it. The changed the name of the brewery to the Red Rose, and for a while it was very popular. But their main rival also produced a sweet and fizzy lager, so the Chief Brewer kept making the worker’s brew even lighter, even sweeter, and it became less and less healthy. They also starting putting in some additives that customers really didn’t like, and sales slumped again.

Eventually, they appointed as Chief Brewer one of oldest workers in the brewery, someone who could remember the recipe for the healthy dark ale that the brewery used to produce. He sacked all the marketing consultants and relied mostly on word of mouth to attract back the old customers. Many people loved the ale and started buying it on-line, and customers started buying shares in the Co-op again.

But sales weren’t so good in the pubs. Some of the brewery workers were worried that sales were increasing too slowly for them to become the best selling beer. They never really liked the dark ale anyway and thought it needed to be sweet and fizzy, and wanted loud and flashy advertising. They got together and told the Chief Brewer he needed to retire, but he didn’t want to. He thought his beer was so good that more and more people would buy it without needing to dilute it or using fancy marketing ideas, and he didn’t want to listen to what the brewery workers were saying.

beer-glassSo the brewery workers decided to hold a shindig for the Co-op members where they would try to convince them that a new Chief Brewer was needed, and that they should give up their favourite beer for a paler ale. But the members crumpled up their invitations because they didn’t like what was said about the Chief Brewer and his beer. One worker said that he would brew the same dark beer as before, even though he had only ever brewed fizzy lager before. Another said she would brew a beer that everyone would like, although she couldn’t describe it and no one listened to her. Meanwhile, the Chief Brewer sat alone in his office and the other brewery added more chemicals to their beer without anyone saying anything.

It seems that there was no one left in the brewery who could organise a simple piss-up.

Ian Chandler, 15th July 2016

Advocacy & Campaigning Mini-Guides

I’m excited to share with you the first three of a series of Advocacy & Campaign Planning Mini-Guides – and you can download them for free from www.thepressuregroup.org/mini-guides/ . Each guide is just four pages of clear, focussed and accessible help to anyone wanting to make our shared world a better place. They are based on my 30 years of working in advocacy and campaigning, using tried and tested models and tools. I’d love to hear what you think of them, and please share if you like them.