Product: Guinness Red
People behind it:
Name: Syl Saller, Liz Finn and the Diageo innovation team
Liz Finn (right) joined Diageo from brand consultancy Dragon International as GB head of innovation last year, reporting to Syl Saller, global innovation director. Diageo has a long track record in innovation – it has launched more than a dozen new drinks since 2005 and trialled a dozen more – but recently it has had a number of misfires, including Bailey’s Glide, Slate 20, Archer’s Vea and Quinn’s. These caused a rethink by the company, which led to a shake-up in the way it runs innovation and Finn’s appointment.
When Marketing Week revealed that Diageo was testing a red version of Guinness, some media commentators asked why the drinks giant would dare to mess around with its crown jewels. Such comments betrayed a failure to understand the drinks market or Diageo. Different variants of Guinness are available around the world, including the latest version of the in-can widget that spawned so many imitators.
Guinness Red is a smoother, sweeter tasting Guinness that uses lighter roasted barley to give it a ruby red colour. It was first trialled in 141 Mitchell & Butlers pubs across the UK and is now available in about 1,000 outlets. It is supposed to be more immediately accessible than the original “Black Stuff”, which Diageo admits is an acquired taste and which is also in gradual but longterm decline in its core markets.
How it fits
Driven by the recognition that a key brand had a problem, Guinness Red was extensively researched and tested before being rolled out on a controlled basis. It is neither a knee-jerk stop-gap product, nor was any apparent uniqueness allowed to blind the marketing team to the fact that consumers didn’t understand it or want it (as happened with Quinn’s).