Should breweries fight their legal battles through social media?

I got a call today from a reporter in Kentucky asking my thoughts about whether it was wise for a pair of breweries — one local, one part of a large conglomerate — to be duking out their legal fight over trademarks via social media.

It was an interesting question, and not one that I had not given much thought to in the past.  After all, attorneys generally tell their clients not to talk to the press and to stay quiet about their case on social media.

The best analysis I’ve seen of the case comes from the blog Drink With The Wench that focuses on issues surrounding craft beer – beer brewed by small independent breweries, as opposed to mass market beer brewed by big conglomerates.

The Beer Wench (her name, not my label) argues that smart breweries will keep their legal troubles in the lawyer’s office and out off the Facebook machine. She writes:

If you need justice, then by all means go and get it. But do it in a courtroom, NOT on Facebook and Twitter. Besides, I’m pretty sure that the judge making the final ruling over the case won’t be swayed by internet petitions or “how many followers and fans” you got to post on your behalf….

Because I refuse to get involved, I’m intentionally leaving the details of this particular “War of the Roses” out of this post. If you wish to learn more about the brewery vs. brewery conflict I’m referring to, you can read the House of Lancaster arguments here and the House of York arguments here.

(As a side note, I absolutely love Beer Wench’s “War of the Roses” imagery.)

I can think of one case where social media helped a man argue his case against an insurance company who he felt had wronged his sister who was killed in a car accident.  With his Tumblr, Matt Fisher was was trying to shame the company into doing the right thing rather than influence a court proceeding. Eventually Fisher got Progressive to settle with his family.

What do you think?  Should people involved in lawsuits go public about their cases on social media?


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One Response to Should breweries fight their legal battles through social media?

  1. Mike Marn says:

    People, probably not. But companies, yes! While one could argue the “morality” of what I’m about to say, few could debate that a company has to battle in the arena in which it can best control the outcome, as perceived by its most important audiences. If there is a vacuum, don’t let it be filled by others -least of all, your opponent.

    In social media, you can present a side of the story that can leave your company looking good regardless of the legal outcome. The key, imho, is that your social media “voice” had better be A) interesting, B) convincing, and C) aligned with your overall brand personality so it all is, at very least. another synergistic point of contact.

    Having waded through the controversy that generated this post, I think the only mistakes made were those of long-windedness. If I were running SM for either, I’d have gone more with soundbites and pithier posts that perhaps told LESS of the story, but told it more memorably. Perhaps, for example, I’d have said:

    “We admit that the “6” on our label MAY briefly resemble the “9” favored by our competitor when you are draining the last drop from the can – but at that moment, YOU can’t see it anyway, and any decent friend would already be off in search of another to replace it for you!”

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