Brands rewrite history to create own legacy

Young brands often create traditions and rewrite history to form a legacy for themselves. But to avoid falsifying the past, any story that is built around a brand must be based on fact.

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Guinness is a brand with a long history, but it decided to create a new tradition to mark the 250th anniversary of the brand’s founder.

Arthur’s Day was created by the Irish stout brand to attract the next generation of drinkers – men in their mid-20s enjoy a pint of Guinness on St Patrick’s Day but don’t tend to order it at any other time of year.

The brand launched a global advertising campaign in January last year talking about the 250th anniversary of Arthur Guinness’ birth, which culminated in parties thrown across the world on 24 September.

The activity was supported by a competition with prizes including a trip into space with Virgin Galactic, designed by Saatchi & Saatchi X.

The agency won best communication campaign featuring sales promotion at last month’s MCCA Best Awards, sponsored by Marketing Week, and client of the year for Guinness global marketing manager Ronan Beirne.

The drink’s first-ever global campaign was intended to create a distinctive day to celebrate the Guinness brand, says Beirne. “It was born from the brand and it is about the brand, our founder. It is a past that is a rich and ownable platform to celebrate, which is probably even more distinctive than St Patrick’s Day,” he says.

Beirne was keen to make sure the activity was contemporary in tone to appeal to the young target audience. He says: “Arthur Guinness is our spiritual leader, but in every way we executed the celebrations it was done in a contemporary manner.

“You can treat an anniversary as a narrative about history that is quite old-fashioned, or you can use it in a way that is exciting and dynamic, where you have a contemporary conversation with consumers.”

More pints of Guinness were sold on its “new” celebratory day in Ireland than on any other day in the brand’s history, while 2.2 million pints of Guinness were also sold in the UK on the day and 115,000 people entered the competition online. The celebratory day has resulted in a 3% rise in brand affinity in the four months since the campaign ran, according to Guinness.

The promotion helps to push the brand forward, says Beirne. “We are always trying to develop more exciting ideas. If you stand still, you go backwards.

“Rather than it being a history lesson, it was all about celebrating a man and a moment in time and to talk about the brand in an exciting and contemporary manner.”

Beirne is not throwing history out of the window altogether, however. He says: “St Patrick’s Day is very important to us as Guinness is seen as a great Irish brand icon linking to the day.” The new event gives Guinness a chance to create a historical link to something completely owned by the brand. He enthuses: “The beauty of Arthur’s Day is that it was huge in markets where St Patrick’s Day wouldn’t be celebrated, such as Africa.”

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