A screengrab from our original pitch for a BrewDog non-alcoholic beer – our overall strategy was titled ‘Punk AF’

Punk AF and the importance of protecting our ideas

Well that escalated quickly. Yesterday BrewDog launched Punk AF, an non-alcoholic beer that ‘borrows’ significantly from a proposal we created that they rejected ‘to pursue another direction’. It sparked an online debate around IP protection…

Alex Myers is Manifest CEO and ‘the tweeter of the tweet’. Here’s his take on the situation:

I’d like to say right now now that flagging this on Twitter has probably spoiled a relationship with BrewDog spanning nearly ten years — but the scale of response to my tweet proves why it is so important to flag these things. It has clearly a struck a chord with creative professionals fed up with their work being pilfered by brands following a pitch process. It’s time we made a stand.

I also want to point out that BrewDog haven’t taken our design route — their cans don’t look anything like the designs we proposed. It’s the central idea and approach that is obviously inspired by the strategy and naming convention we developed for their ‘soft beers’ branding brief in 2018. If you’d like to see what we pitched — You can see the full deck here. I’m aware this level of transparency might result in people pointing out what they haven’t lifted, but I think it’s pretty obvious what they have.

The infringement as we see it

Our belief was that the principle challenge for the non-alcoholic beer market was to deliver the same ‘bite’ as alcoholic brands, and therefore BrewDog has a great opportunity to unlock the potential of their punk ethos to provide a uniquely bold approach to the category.

As such, our creative platform was called ‘Punk AF’, playing with the fact AF can mean both alcohol-free and ‘as fuck’ but also unlocking their biggest brand asset – their flagship beer Punk IPA. This is the central ‘idea’ to our concept. It’s simple, yep, but it’s rich in thinking and precisely answered the brief. Or so we thought. When they said they wanted to pursue another direction, we understood and moved on. When I saw a preview of Punk AF on Twitter in January, I flagged to BrewDog that this was our concept – I received no reply.

Why I made the issue public

At Manifest, like any creative business, ideas are our currency. They are the foundation of our commercial operation. But like others, we have had our ideas stolen or cribbed from without credit or payment during the pitch process. The last time that happened, I swore it would be the last time. When I saw the Punk AF launch yesterday, I felt that not speaking up would be hypocritical. Simple as that. I wasn’t out for money, or revenge. Just credit where credit is due.


If you’re interested — here’s the design story


Martin Farrar-Smith is our Chief Design Officer at Manifest, and he was the driving force behind the Punk AF platform. Here’s his take on the creative process (which was taken without any payment as part of the all-too-familiar pitch process):

We took an agency brief from BrewDog asking for ideas around a range of ‘Soft Beers’ (craft beer with very little or no alcohol) and, as with many briefs from them, this one looked like an exciting opportunity to really disrupt the market.

When we went to look at the rather depressing low alcohol shelves in our local supermarkets we realised that the majority were just lite versions of their ‘full fat’ counterparts — something we really wanted to avoid.

Our initial thinking led us to the name ‘Pop Punk’ — it felt like a strong option but maybe a little forced. It was definitely the direction we wanted to go in even if the name would change, so we did a bit of stim search on Pinterest around Pop Punk.

A selection of Pop Punk stim — we really loved the pastel pink and how it worked with black

Then we found this image…

And everything seemed to fall into place.

We wanted a very stripped back look and one influenced by the scene. Our first concept using the rough BrewDog fonts weren’t working so we switched to a more contemporary, cleaner and more impactful display font.

Early concept & a more tightened design

We used the pastel colours from the stim to inform the palette and used a cut out of the logo that was a throwback to an early rebrand concept we’d had for them years ago (around the start of 2014) and felt it should be given a chance.

Slides from an unused BrewDog rebrand concept many moons ago

Note the use of a tall display font — something we’ve always tried to push into our concepts for BrewDog as we knew of their fondness for fonts like Alternate Gothic and Franchise.

From there we created messaging based on Pop Punk lyrics.

Please note these visuals are intended for display purposes only, they aren’t polished campaign materials

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