A misguided ad campaign is threatening to bring down one of the most successful drinks categories of the last few years, with the shocking revelation that, despite the name, hard seltzers may actually ‘not be that hard at all’.
‘This literally blows the lid off what I can only describe as the great hard seltzer con,’ said marketing expert Ad Spend. ‘Make no mistake, this is dynamite.’
The furore began with a launch campaign on Instagram by startup brand Hrd.H20. The drink’s marketing showed people standing up to authority or flouting the rules after taking a swig of the drink, with the strapline ‘Now That’s Hard’.
One ad shows a clubber kicking a judge in the testicles. In another a graffiti artist sprays ‘just married’ on a police car. In a third a giraffe is forced through a carwash.
A ‘badditude’ problem
But what the drinks creators described as a ‘playful attempt to create a brand with badditude’ soon spiralled into a highly charged debate over whether the category had any right to use the word ‘hard’ at all.
‘Hard is a WKD strawpedo at 4am at a banging house party, not a pissy can of fizzy water,’ said Instgram user babycham4eva. ‘This stuff is about as hard as my gran’s sofa cushions.’
‘I’ve known Cosmos tougher than this,’ agreed gang$tercocktail$. ‘It’s got less attitude than a bag of Labrador puppies.’
The #hardseltzernothard hashtag was trending within 24 hours of the campaign dropping, and before long the entire category was fending off accusations of dishonesty and mis-selling.
Some even accused hard seltzers of category appropriation.
‘Want to know what invented self-denying, zero-cal drinking, coupled with overly-sweet artificial fruit flavours? Vodka, that’s what,’ said Belle Vedere of the vodka revivalist group Wasted not Tasted.
‘For decades voddy has been uncritically tipped into paint-by-numbers cocktails all round the world to help people who don’t really like the taste of alcohol get roaring drunk.
‘The attempt by hard seltzers to cash in on all that hard work by pretending to be something it isn’t is just an insult to the heroic lack of self respect shown by vodka brands down the years.’
By the time Fake Booze went to press, hard seltzer producers were already rallying to put out the fire.
‘We’re just going to rename all our cans from “hard seltzer” to “hardish seltzer”,’ said Jerry Bubbles of the brand Racoon’s Tail. ‘It’ll cost us a few million to do, but since this stuff is basically just grain alcohol and fizzy water anyway we’ll make that back in a week or so. No biggie.’
To read about the drinks world’s Great Vodka Apology, click here