It’s been an eventful week on the old internet – controversy and chaos has been flying left and right. The main thrust was the Hakanoa Ginger Beer’s small scale advertising campaign (you may have seen their posters around Auckland) which was a call to parents with a simple proposition. We decided to review Hakanoa’s three main products while compiling this article, if only to see what the taste of controversy was really like.
It all began with a nationwide press release on Monday. We have included the excerpt below:
They say children are a blessing, but it’s fair to say no parent sets out wanting a ginger child. So ginger beer maker Hakanoa has given those parents unfortunate enough to be cursed with ginger children the opportunity to swap them for something they will want, a six pack of delicious Hakanoa Handmade Ginger Beer. From Tuesday, July 31 2012 until Friday, August 31 2012, parents with ginger spawn will be able to bring them into The Little Grocer on Richmond Road, Grey Lynn, where they will be able to swap them for a six pack of ginger beer.
Cries of disgust, outrage and accusations of cheap attempts at controversy to sell drinks were bandied about. Social media and radio chat went crazy, major media outlets picked the story up, discussion exploded – was it OK to belittle ginger children? Was it as bad as racism? Who were these monsters with their surprisingly good looking marketing campaign?
1% alcohol. I’ll be honest, I don’t even drink ginger beer, and so offering to review this product might have been a tad hasty. I read the message on the back, the gist of it is that the live fermentation process could make this bottle a potential explosion hazard - awesome. I started by sneaking some into my friends hospital room (he had knee surgery) and cracking it open.
Delicious – whoa – it’s like the nectar of the gods. It almost has a dusty (or dry?) taste of freshness, but it’s refreshingly zingy with the taste of real ginger – punchy almost. The flavour is smooth, organic and natural – with a hint of sweetness to take the edge off. The ingredients list says sultanas, I’m curious as to why they’d be in ginger beer, but think it might explain the sweet flavour I just mentioned. A++ is the rating, and I would happily drink again. Quite possibly the best ginger beer I’ve tried. Back to the story…
While some suggested the campaign was simply a case of un-PC fun, others accused the company of exploiting a common proclivity to bully and harass ginger people – while others accused them of near flat-out racism and discrimination. “If you swap the word ginger in that campaign for Maori,” one commentator noted, “you’ll see just how outrageous the campaign is.”
And outrageous it was – hate messages poured in to the email, social media channels and phone numbers of the company founder Rebekah Hay. So much so she has asked for police assistance – according to this Herald article.
1% alcohol. Brilliant, I love a bit of flavourplay. It’s like foreplay but just comes in my mouth. This is like the standard stuff but with a kick – the flavours are clearly noticeable, with a decent amount of spice balanced by the zestyness of the limes. My hospitalised friend reckons it’s better than the first. I make mine into a Moscow Mule – the nurses didn’t even notice my concealed hip flask. Should have patted me down. They come a-visiting for rounds, we all try the ginger beer. Responses are unanimously excellent – another A++ product. It wouldn’t be my usual drink (too unique for that), but it hits the spot. Does the campaign response to criticism do the same? You decide…
After an extensive array of news coverage came the explanation – it was actually a clever marketing stunt to raise awareness around the bullying that ginger children suffer. Really? Sounds suspicious – but then it always would. I was curious though, that was an incredibly amazing looking advertisement for a small one-man-band ginger beer company to create…
Part of the response was as such:
To all our lovers and haters;
The response to the Swap Your Ginger for Six poster has been overwhelming. Both in a positive and a negative way. There is a back-story to the ad we agreed to not expose until the initial reaction subsided.
We did not create the ad. Ginger-haired parents of ginger-haired kids concerned by bullying of their own children did. These parents work in advertising, and they decided to tackle the problem by getting it talked about, in the most effective way they knew how. They also wrote the press release that ensured it would be picked up by national media.
It all started to make sense – and when M&C Saatchi’s name became involved, suddenly the pieces fell into place. Slick creative and suits – they’re always behind every good plot. To further elaborate on the story, Saturday’s Weekend Herald featured an interview with Rebekah, where she discussed how the concept came about:
She revealed that she only agreed to the campaign after a marketing manager, Dave King, came to her with the idea after his ginger-haired son had been bullied.
"He's a really sweet kid," said Mr King of his 8-year-old son who lost his school bag to four bullies. The contents were tipped to the ground and the bag thrown over a fence after jibes about his ginger hair. "When I told people about it, they said 'that's what you get for being ginger'."
The reaction angered Mr King and he wanted to do something about it. He dreamed up the campaign and told his staff to find a ginger beer company that could be used as a vehicle.
Ahhh advertising – it gives us the Telecom Pink Fist, the Air NZ Rico and now the ginger hating beer. But, love it or hate it, it sure got people talking. Hakanoa, we congratulate you on a media frenzy well done.
What is this? I’m confused as to how this is a product or how I’ve ended up with some. Unable to curb my curiosity I drink some straight. Jesus, it’s potent. It’s like drinking liquefied ginger. Mixing this with soda would be an amazing idea. The bottle recommends dribbling on pancakes or icecream – I sadly get a chance to try neither as my friends decide to compete for drinking it straight. The surgery victims’ girlfriend did mention the Asian recipes suggestions (amongst many others) sounded amazing – and by god she was right. This syrup was excellent, smooth yet powerful while tasting exactly like one thing – real ginger.
The product is available at a range of stores – check them out here – they also deliver on a Friday. I suggest giving the drink a crack – it was beautiful.
August 5, 2012 by Francois Finlay