Guinness on how it is creating an ‘ageless’ brand

The iconic beer brand says it is prioritising digital targeting and the creation of new sub-brands in a bid to make Guinness more attractive to young people.

When you think of Guinness it’s easy to imagine a pub full of distinguished middle-aged drinkers complimenting the bartender for the thickness of his pour. Yet, according to Rory Sheridan, head of sponsorship for Diageo in Western Europe, the iconic Irish stout is now attempting to steer away from its specialist tradition and to resonate more with a younger audience.

With the final weekend of the Rugby Six Nations Championship this weekend and this week’s Cheltenham Festival – both events that Guinness sponsors – it’s a busy time for the brand. And, speaking to Marketing Week, Sheridan says that moving forward it plans to use these sponsorships to introduce the new beverages it is creating.

He says the brand’s Open Gate Brewery in Dublin has been prioritising the creation of new sub-brands such as Guinness West Indies Porter Ale and Hop House 13 lager; the latter marks the first new lager brand Guinness has launched since the 1960s. Although both are different types of beer they are made with the same Guinness yeast and a good chance to “tap in” to the craft beer revolution.

READ MORE: Diageo: We have the power to normalise gender equality

“We’ve been opening up the Dublin brewery to social media influencers to show we have a broader appeal. We’re also prioritising the creation of new lagers and ales there, whether that’s on a limited or permanent sales run,” he explains. “There’s no doubt a younger drinker can find Guinness a challenging drink in terms of an entry-level beer, so that needs to be addressed.”

Making the brand resonate with a female drinker is also a challenge for Guinness. One potential, Sheridan says, could be beer cocktails following “successful trials” among female drinkers. However, launching a more female-friendly beer sub-brand would be foolish.

“If a woman wants to drink a beer, she will drink one without being told what to do. It is more about our marketing appealing to a broader non-demographic-specific audience and showing them Guinness can be enjoyed by anybody opposed to creating a female-focused liquid,” he says.

Made of More

One way the marketing of Guinness is evolving is through its Made of More positioning, which prioritises touching stories rather than the artistic punch of previous iconic campaigns such as Surfer and its wave-bound horses. Around the 2015 Rugby World Cup, for example, the beer brand’s TV campaign focused on the story of Welsh rugby legend Gavin Thomas and how he bravely came out as homosexual to his teammates.

When we speak, people listen, so we have a massive duty of care not to mess around with their expectation for Guinness to act with integrity.

Rory Sheridan, Diageo

Sheridan says this new positioning is here to stay and that Guinness has no plans to simply flirt with being purposeful. “Around the time of the financial crash, we did lots of research on how the Guinness brand can stay relevant for the next 20 years,” he explains. “And having substance in an era when the public are very cynical of major organisations was our number one takeaway.

“With Guinness being this typically male-orientated brand, there was a need to be genderless and to instead focus on stories everybody can relate to; that’s Made of More in a nutshell. Even if we change the slogan slightly, it will be a long-term focus. When we speak, people listen, so we have a massive duty of care not to mess around with their expectation for Guinness to act with integrity.”

Targeting and becoming ageless

Sheridan says Diageo wants Guinness to gain just as much fame from its advertising in social as it previously did in TV. Of this approach, he reveals: “The traditional marketing mix we’re used to is something we are trying to step outside of more.

“We want to be more impactful with our media spend and steer clear of a one size fits all approach, where a TV campaign is simply repeated down the funnel. It’s not about reaching millions of people but reaching the right people through smart targeting and original content.”

Ultimately, Guinness is ready to break away from tradition in its bid to appeal to drinkers of all ages. Sheridan concludes: “Guinness really must become an ageless brand as it is important to recruit new people to the brand. If targeting younger drinkers through stuff such as our Boiler Room partnership means doing radically different advertising than the previous generation then that’s what has to be done.”

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  • Dalin Ard 20 Mar 2017 at 7:26 am

    A goal for nearly every company is to appeal to a wide range of consumers, so it does not surprise me that Guinness is attempting to do the same. The problem, of course, is that it is very difficult to market a product that appeals to both younger and older generations and a mix of socio-economic classes. As stated in the article, Guinness’ key demographic is “distinguished middle-aged drinkers” and they have a strong hold on this market. My worry is that if Guinness attempts to appeal to younger will hurt their image with the older demographic, especially since other beer companies such as Bud Light are already very popular with people in their 20s. However, despite my initial worries, this article does go into great depth on the details of Guinness’ plan to become “ageless” and I believe that it could work. Their first move to start advertising on social media is a great idea that is sure to resonate with the younger crowd. I also like that instead of attempting to market their current product to every demographic, but rather, create new lagers that appeal to the younger generation and not altering their already successful lager. Near the end of the article, a spokesperson for Guinness is quoted saying that they want to “steer clear of a one size fits all approach” and that “it’s not about reaching millions of people but reaching the right people through smart targeting and original content”. I recall when Apple attempted to do something similar with the introduction of the iPhone 5C, an affordable variant to the high-end flagship phone. This was an attempt by Apple to appeal to a larger demographic, but unfortunately for them, it did not sell nearly as well as projections predicted it would, and the device was dropped from future lineups. I hope that Guinness is able to successfully market their new lagers and become “ageless”.

  • sydney willett 21 Mar 2017 at 5:42 am

    The concept of making a brand timeless is a very hard thing to do, especially when the brand is mainly making one or a small amount of products such as Guinness. Guinness makes beer, which will always be around, but is harder to make the brand timeless compared to a company like Apple, who is constantly able to create new products and update technology as times change and advancements in the world are made. Guinness is doing everything right in order to maintain its brand image and remain a top brand in the beer industry. It is a very smart idea to start creating new lines of beer as mentioned in the article. By doing this and creating new advertisements targeted to a younger crowd, they are able to largely widen their demographic and hopefully gain a significant number of younger consumers. The ad embedded within the article is also notable. Similar to other brands, Guinness is moving its advertising techniques to one that almost has no relevance to the brand. The stout is never seen in the ad and Guinness is never mentioned in the video either. Instead, the brand is focusing on highlighting social issues and movements of modern society and showing their support – ultimately gaining a positive reputation among consumers who also support these issues. This seems like somewhat of a risky move for a male oriented alcohol company, but this advertisement technique has proven to be effective for brands of all products. Many companies should take note of what Guinness is doing and strive to be timeless as well.

  • Li Cheng 21 Mar 2017 at 6:16 am

    There are many variables between the actual purchase of the consumer and the actual purchase of the consumer.
    First of all, there are some variables that the advertisers can not control at all, for example, the changing economic climate, demographic changes, political events, climate and seasons will affect the sale of many goods and services. At the same time, our competitors are not static, they will respond to our advertising or because of the company’s own decision, and constantly committed to improving product style, distribution, price, advertising and promotion.
    In addition, it is also important to distinguish whether consumers choose whether to choose autonomy or non-autonomy at the time of purchase. For example, someone in the stadium stands to agree with a brand of beer in the ad, but when he is thirsty, if the scene only sell B brand beer, this person will buy B brand beer. Here, the ads are not related to consumers buying B brand beer. Advertising is only one of the many uses that can be used together to complete the sale, unless the marketing is far more dominant in marketing than the sum of all other forces (eg, competitors’ efforts, distribution channels, changes in the market environment, etc.) Otherwise, it is difficult to establish a direct and positive relationship between the advertising volume and the sales volume.

  • Nathan 21 Mar 2017 at 3:51 pm

    Who says an old dog can’t learn a new trick? The historically iconic beer brand Guinness has stated that it will be beginning too prioritize digital targeting and new sub-brands in order to attract younger demographics to the brand. I believe this to be smart move for the brand as they currently have a stronger appeal to “distinguished middle-aged drinkers” as stated in the article. Guinness has come up with a solid plan for accomplishing this goal by starting to advertise on social media. On top of that, instead of trying to push their traditional stout onto a new generation Guinness is developing new products to market towards younger demographics. I think this is a really smart decision as most beer drinkers of any age are pretty familiar with their traditional products, seeing a new product by a well known company will likely spark new interest in the brand. The company also does have many great tools at their disposal for marketing new products such as sponsoring the Rugby Nations Championship and the Cheltenham Festival. The one thing that Guinness needs to be careful of in my opinion is neglecting or driving away their distinguished middle-aged customers that they have a solid stronghold on. Overall, Guinness would like to become an “ageless” brand.

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