How a “Pinup” Brand can Bend with the Times
Nottingham-based brewery Castle Rock has rebranded its beer – again – after being accused of using a sexist image.
First brewed 20 years ago in 1998, Elsie Mo beer has been one of Castle Rock brewery’s best-sellers… however, the logo itself has occasionally courted controversy for its depiction of the it’s character ‘Elsie Mo’, with the tagline ‘Full Bodied and Totally Irresistible” which was a tongue-in-cheek phrase describing the beer, but alluding to the Pinup itself, Elsie Mo.
Inspired right from the start by the ‘nose art’ that often adorned fighter planes and bombers in the Second World War,the first depiction of Elsie celebrated this nostalgia.
Here are the top ten reasons why you would change a brand identity:
- To make it friendlier
- To make it cleaner
- To make it simpler
- To make it feel more modern and therefore relevant
- To better capture who you are (and what customers love you for)
- To signal who you are becoming (that customers will love you for being)
- To show your business has changed or is changing (in ways that customers will welcome)
- To be bolder (and therefore more visible), particularly in busy markets
- To highlight an aspect of your character that has been missed
- To correct a misconception that is holding you back or putting off the very people you are looking to attract.
The reason why Castle Rock went with a re-brand, in this case, was probable number ten. This is also not the first time it has rebranded, however its previous changes included enlarging the woman’s breasts in 2007.
In 2014, the design of the logo answered to critics and donned the pump clip (the handle you use in which you draw the draft beer) with a redesigned Elsie in a well-known, less mildly risqué, wartime 1940s ‘Pinup’ art style:
You would think that getting rid of the tagline, and putting Elsie into a pilot’s uniform, were enough to silence the critics. She kept with the Pinup style that the Brand wanted to convey, but there were still detractors.
Not good enough, they said, so lets try again…
Finally, the decision was been made to refresh the brand again, but this time putting Elsie in the cockpit of the fighter plane:
In a statement on its website, Castle Rock explained: “It’s a great beer, consistently produced by great brewers, and continues to be a key part in the success of Castle Rock. However, it’s time to acknowledge that the sexualised presentation of Elsie Mo is deemed not acceptable in a culture that strives for, and celebrates, equality.”
The new image of Elsie was inspired by the 168 female pilots who were part of the Air Transport Auxiliary (ATA) during WW2. The women pilots flew many kinds of plane models: the Spitfire, Hurricane, Mosquito and Mustang fighters and even Lancaster bombers – from the factories to RAF aerodromes across the UK.
Castle Rock concluded: “While the new design continues to pay homage to the war effort and the unsung bravery of these pilots, we also want it to be an empowering image. We worked to capture the bravery of the women of the ATA, and the confidence they exude in photographs, to inspire a pump clip that we can all be proud of. Most importantly, Elsie’s now in the pilot’s seat, where perhaps she should have been all along.”
*top ten list by Branding Strategy Insider Magazine