Embracing the Counterfeiters

For those like me who have been bitten by the craft beer craze, one name sums up the massive market growth in independent breweries more than any other. Brew Dog.  Named as Scotland's fastest growing company in 2012, the brewery has been an unqualified success since it produced its first beer back in 2007.

By the start of 2014 they could boast an impressive supply chain plus bars in Britain, Sweden, Japan and China. All quite impressive international expansion except the company had never opened a bar in China.  The establishment in Changzhou, complete with Brew Dog branding was a fake. Not that Brew Dog were the first organisation to see fake establishments open in China - they joined esteemed company such as Apple, Ikea and McDonalds who gave also fallen victim of counterfeit shops opening.

Whilst co-founder James Watt was surprised by the development, he was also flattered that his brand had joined such an elite group.  Watt sent an open letter to the bar where he actually praised them fir choosing to rip off their branding:-

"I know that most organisations might reprimand you, condemn you and maybe even sue you for faking their logo and their bar concept....BrewDog exists to make everyone as passionate about beer as we are, and frankly your choice to build a fake BrewDog bar in Changzhou – rather than a fake McDonald’s, a fake Starbucks or a fake Nike Town – suggests to me that we are getting there." Wrote Watt, going on to suggest that they may get inspiration to start brewing for themselves.

Brew Dog's approach to this clear infringement is unusual to say the least, but like the case of fake football shirts, does it actually strengthen the brand as visitors to the fake bar then go and buy the real product and become brand ambassadors in this new market.

Watts finished his letter with a statement that will have IP lawyers tearing their hair out - "We see you not as criminals, but compatriots. Not as competitors, but comrades".