Guinness: Brand Profile

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Guinness is one of the world's best-known beer brands, and a key pillar of Diageo's global drinks portfolio (though also something of an anomaly as the group's only important beer). Guinness's reputation is arguably much bigger than its sales would suggest. Something of an acquired taste, the stout trails higher-selling international lagers such as Heineken or Carlsberg, although its distinctive black-and-white branding and the striking, often surreal advertising created for the brand between the late 1980s and early 2000s is recognized worldwide. In fact, Guinness has been known for the creativity of its advertising for almost 100 years, especially in the UK, where commercials such as "Waiting Man", "noitulovE" ("Evolution" reversed) and especially "Surfer" regularly feature among surveys of the country's best-loved ads. 

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Diageo

Recent stories from Adbrands Weekly Update:

Adbrands Weekly Update 30th Oct 2014: " It's Guinness, Jim, but not as we know it." Diageo unveiled a bold plan to boost the profile of its Guinness brand in the US with a series of luxury-priced limited editions, adopting the same sort of approach it already uses for high-end spirits. It has already expanded the Guinness portfolio with the launch of Guinness Black Lager in 2011 and this year's Guinness Blonde Lager, which looks exactly like any other sort of traditional lager. Its newest and boldest plan is the unveiling of Guinness The 1759, a high-strength high-price brew, that will be the first of a series of commemorative beers released each year under the Guinness Signature Series. The new 9% abv launch is an amber ale brewed with a blend of beer malt and peated whisky malt, and will be sold not in traditional "pint" servings but as a 75cl bottle like wine, with a price tag of $35.

Adbrands Weekly Update 4th Sept 2014: Ads Of The Week "Made Of Black". Are you ready to get excited? AMV BBDO's relaunch of Guinness in Africa, one of the stout's most important global markets, is just awesome. Considerably more expensive than other local brews, Guinness has traditionally been marketed in Africa as a beer for the more discerning drinker. Forget suave and sophisticated, says the new ad, let's party. It's time to mainline some adrenaline and celebrate the blackness of black.

Adbrands Weekly Update 16th Jan 2014: Ads Of The Week: "Sapeurs". AMV BDDO have rediscovered some extra creative mojo for the new Guinness ad after a few recent misses. This spot features a group of unlikely dandies from the back streets of one of Africa's poorest nations. The "Society of Elegant Persons of the Congo" from Brazzaville is apparently genuine, although you'd be had-pressed to find a single reference to them online until they turned up in this ad. A great spot is made all the more awesome with the use of the *other* killer track from Bath blues band The Heavy, whose earlier How You Like Me Know is already one of the film and TV industry's most-used backing tracks.

Adbrands Weekly Update 24th Oct 2013: BBDO strengthened its hold on the global Guinness account, wresting the business in Africa - one of the beer's biggest markets - from Saatchi & Saatchi in a review. Work is to be shared between AMV BBDO in London and Net#work BBDO in Johannesburg. 

Adbrands Weekly Update 24th Jan 2013: Ads of the Week: "Clock". Guinness ads are always a special event, and this new one from AMV BBDO is no exception. The sheer style of the ad (directed by Peter Thwaites for prodco Gorgeous) is especially impressive. However we can't help feeling slightly disappointed. Seems to us that AMV BBDO may have lost their grip on the Guinness concept. In what way does the ad say anything at all about this particular brand? Could have been for anything. And a clock that talks?


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Background

Free for all users | see full profile for current activities: Arthur Guinness set up shop in 1759, leasing a Dublin brewery after inheriting £100 from a relative. (In an extraordinarily bold and astute move, he purchased a 9,000 year lease on the site at a fixed rent of £45 a year. That land is now one of the most valuable areas in and around Dublin, and still costs Diageo £45 a year.). He produced a wide range of ales and stouts, but it was his Extra Superior Porter stout which had the most lasting appeal. Porter was named after the porters at London's Covent Garden fruit and vegetable market, who were noted consumers of this form of beer. An English invention, it gradually fell out of favour in its home market, but remained lastingly popular in Ireland. During the early years of the 19th century, the family brewery gradually came to concentrate on production of its leading brand, until by 1840 Guinness stout represented more than 80% of sales. The harp logo, still used today, was adopted in 1862. In 1886, the brewery went public as Arthur Guinness & Sons, and expanded rapidly. By 1900, Guinness was the world's biggest brewer, and in the early years of the 20th century, the founder's great-grandson Edward Guinness, later the first Lord Iveagh, accumulated huge wealth from this business and other investments. By the 1920s and 1930s, the Guinness family was one of the richest in Britain, at the heart of London and Dublin's social elite, although it had increasingly little to do with the brewery from which its fortune originated.

Guinness first made a name for itself as a result of a memorable ad campaign which promised "Guinness is Good for You" and introduced its toucan mascot. In 1950 the company diversified, launching Harp lager, and establishing the books division which first published The Guinness Book of Records in 1955. (Reportedly this was conceived by Guinness managing director Sir Hugh Beaver during a weekend shooting party to resolve an argument over which was the fastest game bird in Europe, the golden plover or the grouse). But by the mid-1970s, the company had spread itself too widely. In 1981, incoming chief executive Ernest Saunders began to sell off many of the companies acquired by his predecessors, before drawing up a new shopping list of takeover targets. At the top of this list was Distillers Company, the maker of Johnnie Walker whisky, Gordon's and Tanqueray gin. After a fierce takeover battle with rival the Argyll Group (now Safeway), Guinness won Distillers in 1986 for £2.5bn. However a subsequent and unrelated investigation of US financier Ivan Boesky also uncovered details of a scheme used during the Distillers takeover to boost Guinness's share price, and therefore the value of the company's bid. Saunders was fired in 1987, and subsequently jailed for fraud along with three business associates. 

While the Guinness company made news for corporate fraud, the Guinness family also hit the headlines during the 1970s and 1980s as a result of a series of tragic, often drug-related deaths among the younger "idle rich" members of the family. In 1997 Lord Moyne, formerly Jonathan Guinness, was investigated after the disappearance of £49m from Trustor, a Swedish investment company, of which he was chairman.

Following the Distillers scandal, new Guinness CEO Sir Anthony Tennant refocused the group on drink, buying Dewar's in 1987, as well as a 34% stake in the Moet Hennessy drinks arm of LVMH. Other big purchases included Spanish brewers Cruzcampo and Union Cervecera in 1991 and Desnoes & Geddes, the Jamaican brewer of Red Stripe lager in 1993 as well as distilleries in Venezuela and Germany, and America's Glenmore. In 1994, Guinness won US rights to Grand Marnier, and strengthened its ties to LVMH's chairman Bernard Arnault by selling him Guinness' shareholding in fashion group Christian Dior. By the mid-1990s, the group had a strong portfolio of drinks brands but was looking for a way to make a quantum leap forward. That deal materialized in 1998, when Guinness merged with Grand Metropolitan to form Diageo. [See Diageo profile for more]. See full profile for current activities


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