Shamu in your Stella… whale, that escalated quickly

According to a recent article in the Metro, Icelandic brewery Stedji have taken it upon themselves to answer a question that nobody asked and nobody ever will… What would whale flavoured beer taste like?

Launched in celebration of the Icelandic mid-winder festival, the new Viking themed drink will contain 5.2% alcohol and a whole lot of ground up Shamu. In the response to the idea, Sedji has found themselves faced with heavy criticism from environmental groups including the infamous PETA – People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.

For the majority of the alcohol chugging British public, the thought of finding a flipper floating in their Fosters came as a bit of a shock. For me however, the idea really isn’t that alarming – mainly because it’s very obviously a cheap PR stunt.

Sedji have managed to get the name of their brewery into half the world’s online and print media, and I say good on them. Where my confusion lies is in PETAs response to the idea. How can a company that has built its entire press strategy around shock tactics, be remotely offended by what Sedji has done? PETA has been more than happy to cynically exploit everything from women’s rights to internet pornography just to get their name in the paper. If we’re willing to sodomise serious ideological issues to promote PETA, we may as well do it to sell beer as well.

This is the biggest problem with shock tactics, that after a while they just become the norm. When a marketer decides to make a promotion the loudest and most offensive campaign in the world, the only way their competitors can respond is by increasing the shock value of their own campaigns. What starts as being poked with a stick quickly turns into being hit over the head with a two-by-four.

The ultimately result of this escalation is that neither the marketer nor their competitors will ever end up on top. Instead, the public’s tolerance for depravity will just keep on adapting to the images shown. Eventually there may even come a point where the very concept of obscenity will cease to exist. It is at that stage that shock tactics will disappear for good. Not because marketers don’t want to use them, but because they simply won’t work anymore. When faced with images of depravity the desensitised public will merely laugh a hearty belly laugh, and return to their pints of ice cold whale beer.

Alex Warren
Alex Warren
Miserablist, whiskey-drinker, and general tinpot shambles. Alex Warren has a weary pessimism for all things media, politics and tech.