PERSPECTIVES – EDEN’S PSYCHO: SENSE OR CENSURE?

Political correctness is one of the most hotly debated topics today at every level of society. Brands often find themselves caught in the crossfire, and tough censure runs the risk of suffocating creativity and originality.

We recently stumbled upon the news that Cumbria’s own Eden Brewery had been forced to change the name and identity of its Psycho beer, following a single complaint about the beer’s name and branding. Targeting such straplines as ‘calling all psychos’ and ‘designed to mess with your mind’, the offended party argued that these encouraged violent and aggressive behaviour, and perpetuated negative stereotypes regarding mental health. In a time when any branding or marketing remotely out of the ordinary is inevitably subject to at least some level of reproof from the general public, such complaints are the standard. However, the crux here is that alcohol standards body The Portman Group decided to uphold the complaint; Eden was subsequently forced to abandon the ‘Psycho’ name and branding.

This is just small news about a small brewery, but it calls into question how we as a society are dealing with the notion of “offensiveness”, and political correctness at large. Particularly now, as raging against the “PC Police” is a trademark of the alt-right and embittered Trumpists, it is important that brands are not forced to cower away in a corner where anything even mildly provocative is wiped out, for fear of being amalgamated with the trolls. Where big brands are indeed under the obligation to tone down any potentially offensive material, or risk instant admonishment by masses of indignant Twiterrati, small companies such as Eden have the opportunity to shake things up and be a little irreverent.

This all leads to the tough questions: where do we draw the line, and who gets to draw it? Of course, that question will never find a universal answer, as outside certain well-established taboos, people will eternally argue about what they feel is right and wrong. However, we can safely say that neither extreme offensiveness nor unbridled censure is the answer. While shocking people for the sake of it is usually pointless, demanding that nothing remotely out of the ordinary ever gets said stifles creativity, and makes for a frankly boring world to live in.

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