'Dated' pub chain O’Neill’s chases younger audience with brand refresh

Irish pub chain O’Neill’s is hoping to reach new audiences with an updated look that moves far away from the clichéd shamrocks and leprechauns theme of the past and instead plays on the strength of its live music and sports screenings.

After accepting its brand was “dated” after failing to move on from the 'themed-pub' trend of the 90s, O’Neill’s is now targeting families with children around university age who might share similar interests as their parents.

The chain approached integrated marketing agency MMP.Global for the work, with the agency briefed to make O’Neill’s “fit for now” without alienating existing customers.

Centred on the Irish ‘Craic’ the new proposition aims to align the pub's atmosphere, food and drink, as well as the live sports and music on which O’Neill’s has built the brand over the years.

Speaking to The Drum, Georgia Marshall Brown, digital marketing and communications strategist at MMP.Global, said the agency wanted to move away from the cliché green shamrocks and leprechauns and instead focus on what Ireland is known for in terms of atmosphere.

“We had some pre conceived ideas about who the new audience might be but the concern was that new audience might well alienate the existing audience and there might be a clash of cultures,” she said.

“So we really dialed it back to what the existing O’Neill’s brand was about and that was predominantly around having a good time and sport and music and that is where we focused on a good Irish Craic of being the essence of the brand.

“We tried to not focus too heavily on comedy Irish aspect, because that’s what it used to be like, a themed bar, which was very popular in the 90s. So it was to retain the Irish essence but more what being Irish is about so good fun, good times, great people and into great quality ingredients without being green and shamrock-y.”

O’Neill’s is now active across social media to reach its new target consumer, particularly Instagram, something new for the brand after doing “nothing” before hand. Digital screens in the pubs are now being utilised to encourage consumer retention and upselling, which will move from advertising Carling to craft beers.

The ‘Craic Central’ concept will feature across all communication touch points, as well in the design and layout of the pubs, and it is hoped the new branding will be rolled out across all 40 O’Neill’s pubs over the next few years.

MMP.Global has also developed comprehensive brand guidelines, essential brand values and a brand essence video, which will be rolled out to O’Neill’s staff who will become brand ambassadors.

Natalie Mortimer

I look after all things creative.

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