The brand-building brilliance of Guinness: brand boss shares recipe for lasting success

The Drum 25 Jun 2020 10:30
Made of More: A discussion with Guinness global brand director Grainne Wafer

Guinness's advertising has been showered with plaudits over the years, including seeing its beloved 'Surfer' spot being voted 'best ad of all time' in a 2002 Channel 4 public vote.

The long-term quality and consistency of the brand's marketing messaging, which has never wavered in recent decades, has now been rewarded with another major accolade: Guinness has been named winner of The Drum Marketing Awards' Investment in Brand category, sponsored by the FT.

In response to the award, its global brand director Grainne Wafer sat down with the FT's global marketing director, commercial, David Buttle, to talk about building a brand over the long term, and how to manage that while navigating major short-term challenges like the Covid-19 pandemic.

“I'm a Dubliner so I have a very personal connection with the Guinness brand,” says Wafer, referencing how the drink's advertising inspired her to become a marketer – testament to just how long it has been getting its messaging right.

As to why the Diageo-owned stout's campaigns have resonated so deeply over the years, Wafer believes that it is because of its “high benchmark” for creativity and a “little touch of something magic” that only Guinness would produce.

"We only allow that to happen if the quality of the advertising is as good as the quality of the beer. And again, that's a really been a principle that we hold ourselves to both the quality of our beer being second to none, but also the quality of our work being second to none…

“Guinness is a very distinctive brand. It's a beer made more for people and alongside that sort of sense of distinctiveness, we bring consistency.”

“It's about distinctively driving salience and making sure that we are building that distinctive nature of the Guinness brand fully on all touchpoints. And obviously consumers are changing across time as well, how they're engaging in content has changed and it's moved from being a simple broadcast model to really thinking about every touchpoint right through to participation and how brands are being experienced in bars, homes, etc… It's not just an advertising idea, it's actually a full brand idea.”

“It's a very consistent strategy that is adapting quickly in real-time. Another thing that obviously has changed is behind the scenes, we have been putting a huge effort into the quality of the beer, and really making sure that when bars and pubs do reopen that consumers across the world will have the freshest, most beautiful Guinness that they've ever had. That's a huge focus behind the scenes. It's not just about the ads, it's about the logistics. It's about the full supply chain and making sure our beer is really wonderful as well.”

One Guinness campaign that gained a large amount of praise recently was actually a spec advert featuring a sofa against a black backdrop which resembled a pint of Guinness, encouraging people to stay at home, and created not by the brand or its agencies but as part of a One Minute Brief challenge.

“We know from our social channels that people are really looking forward to that first sip of a delicious Coke or pint of Guinness, wherever they are in the world and we want to make sure that we reflect that sentiment appropriately as we build those plans…

Guinness won the Investment in Brand Award following a poll conducted by The Drum taking suggestions of brands from its readers and jurors of The Drum Marketing Awards, who were also called upon the decide the winner from the resulting shortlist.

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GuinnessGrainne WaferDavid ButtleGuinness drinkers and GuinnessRupert Guinness
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