Guinness needs to woo younger drinkers to maintain ‘surfer’ cool

Diageo is hoping its £12m advertising push for Guinness fuels demand in the on-trade but industry observers warn the brand needs to extend into new drinking occasions to attract younger fans and reverse declining sales. 

Guinness’ upcoming marketing needs to extend the brand into new drinking occasions, experts say.

The campaign is the latest in Guinness’ £34m marketing strategy, Diageo’s biggest investment in the brand to date, to reinforce its premium credentials. The drinks maker has launched a TV spot to promote the “Surge” of the lager ahead of what it claims will be “innovative mobile advertising” in the coming weeks.

Nicola Samons, marketing manager for Guinness Western Europe, says upcoming activity will “increase the visibility of premium beer in the on trade” and drive value into the category.

It aims to counteract the growing popularity of lighter and more refreshing beers, which have taken their toll on Guinness sales. Value sales of the drink in the UK plummeted 3.3 per cent year-on-year to £89.5m for the 52 weeks to 20 July 2013, according to IRI Worldwide.  However, the brand claimed it gained share in the last quarter as a result of increased marketing spend.

Guinness, famed for iconic advertising campaigns, including “Good Things Come to Those who Wait” and “Surfer”, has struggled to market the famous black stout’s point of difference versus other brands in the beer category in recent years.

Simon Wright founder of Hawkes Brewing Company and former senior marketer at AB inBev and Greene King, says: “What Guinness has is money which in turn should give it greater flexibility to try new things. Guinness should think about what they can do to impact the lives of [younger and connected] drinkers and how it can create real social currency and influence.”

Diageo has attempted to broaden the stout’s appeal through product innovation. Guinness Red was launched in 2007 as a slightly smoother and sweeter alternative to the mainstream brand but was pulled shortly after due to lacklustre sales. It is currently trialling both Guinness Black and Guinness Mid Strength lagers across the UK and Ireland.

Laurence Coen, founder of management consultancy Glorious Day and former Guinness GB marketing director, says: “Guinness is a beer brand struggling to survive in a spirits business. New products that make the drink lighter aren’t going to work. The brand team should be looking at pushing Guinness in a half glass in the on-trade to make it more appealing to women. It should also look developing variants around pre-existing mixes such as “Guinness and Black” (Guinness and blackcurrant juice) and Back Velvet (Guinness and champagne) so that people feel more comfortable drinking it in pubs and at home.”

If upcoming Guinness activity can disrupt the notion that dark beers cannot be refreshing then the brand could become more approachable to younger drinkers. It would allow Diageo to be less dependent on pubs for revenue and mark a new chapter for the Guinness brand.

Guinness sales data: source IRI Worldwide

  52 w/e 21 July 12 52 w/e 20 July 13
Total Guinness £92.6m £89.5m
YOY % change -7.50% -3.30%
Share of beer/lager/cider/stout 2.10% 1.90%
Share of stout 90.50% 89.50%
  12 w/e 28 April 2012 12 w/e 27 April 2013
Total Guinness £22.1m £20.7m
YOY % change -12.70% -6.10%
Share of beer/lager/cider/stout 2.30% 2.20%
Share of stout 91.40% 89.80%


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