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Advertising Guinness

Guinness plans to be ‘the most popular beer in the world’ but it can’t rely on TV to get there


By Natalie Mortimer, N/A

March 17, 2017 | 5 min read

Guinness is working on a plan to become 'the biggest beer brand in the world' through social and digital channels in the hope that it can be become a brand that people want to try rather than one they just respect.


Guinness plans to be ‘the most popular beer in the world’ but it can’t rely on TV to get there

The Diageo-owned stout last week appointed R/GA as its digital agency of record to help increase activity in the social and digital space to realise its growth ambitions globally as it wakes up to the fact that high spend TV campaigns aren’t enough to propel the brand to the top.

The appointment of R/GA comes as Diageo aims to make Guinness ‘the most popular beer in the world’, The Drum understands, with the agency’s remit spanning a campaign platform, content and communications. It will particularly focus on online talkability, social reach and mentions.

“Guinness needs to broaden its appeal to a younger (and more female) audience" and social is the obvious place, both in terms of presence, and in terms of telling "Made of More" stories," said David Parry, chief operating officer at Saffron.

"Guinness re-focusing in social is not news. But I do wonder about the move towards more "emotionally authentic" narratives. Guinness is Guinness. It's a wonderful brand that transcends class and culture. It's invested over the years in being a brand of creative possibility, and it seems to me that there's room enough in their old positioning to reach diverse audiences. One thing that will always remain true: younger audiences can smell bullshit a mile off. Unless the story is right, it doesn't matter what channel you're telling it in.”

It’s a big ambition and one that will see Guinness need to shift its mindset away from the anthemic TV spots it has become well known for. While the brand has experimented in the social space – it was the first brand to launch a 60-second ad on Instagram in the UK last year – it’s reach and engagement falls flat compared to its competitors.

According to the Burst Insight’s Engagement Score (which factors in post frequency and combines all public profile engagement metrics weighted against the top brand per metric type across Instagram, Twitter and Vine) Guinness has the 8th highest engagement level of all the beer global and country accounts it tracks. There are only five Guinness Twitter country accounts, compared to 34 Heineken, 13 Carlsberg and seven Budweiser, meaning to achieve its ambition of becoming the biggest beer brand in the world, Guinness needs to think locally on a global scale.

Working in Guinness’ favour, however, are it’s strong quality credentials and recovering sales, which were up 2% in Europe supported by a strong performance of its craft Hop House 13 lager. According to Mintel, of the 1,940 people it surveyed in its Beer Brand report, almost everyone is aware of the brand (92%), and it boasts a very strong image. It is the only brand among those researched deemed to have a good reputation by the majority of people aware of the brand (56%). It is also the most commonly seen as offering consistently high quality (47%) and as trusted (36%).

On the flip side, stout is not to everyone’s taste, less than half (45%) of adults have ever drunk Guinness, and it its usage is heavily geared towards men. 62% of men have ever drunk Guinness compared to 28% of women. Overall usage is at its lowest among 18-24s at 35%, likely linked to this group being least likely to see it as accessible.

When it comes to positioning, Guinness has long been synonymous with rugby, a strategy Simon Bibby, head of research and co-founder at Burst Insights said needs rethinking to appeal to a wider audience.

“Guinness has been synonymous with rugby culture for a long time. It has served them well but will not get them to the status of the coolest beer brand. Guinness and their creative agencies must tap into a wider remit of relevant lifestyle associations in the same way Red Bull have used a variety of extreme sports and adventure pursuits to become the quintessentially cool beverage brand,” he said.

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